November 22nd, 2013
by Amir Dakkak
Being one of the most arid countries in the Middle East, Jordan is facing severe water shortages. The current per capita water supply in the country is 200 cubic meters per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that Jordan’s population (currently at 6 million) will reach 9 million by 2025 causing a drastic decline in per capita water availability to measly 91 cubic meters.
Groundwater resources account for 54% of Jordan’s total water supply, and are being threatened by pollution due to over-pumping of aquifers, seepage from landfill sites, and improper disposal of dangerous chemicals. Agricultural sector is responsible for about two-third of Jordan’s total water consumption. Jordan is currently ranked among the top five countries most threatened by water shortages. More than 75% of the population lives in cities which are often located away from water bodies.
Management of water resources is therefore a big challenge for the Jordanian government which has been trying to reduce the rising demand for water through public awareness campaigns. A large fraction of freshwater supplies is contributed by aquifers which are threatened by over-pumping and pollution. Managing the supply as well as the demand end of water resources has assumed tremendous importance in the country.
The government may start water supply management initiative by enforcing regulation on water extraction from groundwater aquifers. The absence of strict laws is leading to illegal well drilling, reckless use of water and unsustainable extraction of water from aquifers. Aquifers in Jordan are being used at twice the recharge rate which is hampering the natural replenishment process and may eventually lead to them drying up.
The Jordanian government could take the initiative by renovating old and rusted water pipes that supply private homes with domestic water supplies. This basic maintenance measure could have a dramatic effect. In the United States, water leaks are responsible for wastage of 1 trillion gallons of water every year, which is equivalent to the annual water usage of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined. Furthermore, rusted pipes can cause a change in the colour and taste of the water, triggering additional water loss through the disposal of dirty water. Therefore, repairing old water pipes, and replacing them after two or three decades, is very important.
A key component of water supply management is utilising alternative sources of water. Wastewater treatment plants allow reuse of wastewater, which not only creates an additional water supply source, but also reduces the reliance on the natural water supplies, such as ground water, giving aquifers more time to replenish and recharge. Importantly, wastewater treatment is a potential source of energy, through harnessing the methane produced by the sewage water.
Furthermore, wastewater treatment plants reduce environmental pollution by extracting wastewater that is usually disposed of into rivers and aquifers in the form of runoffs. The government has been planning to build treatment plants across Jordan, such as the proposed Amman-Zarqa facility. However, these plants have yet to be built, and Jordan has yet to use wastewater treatment to its full potential.
Water shortage has significantly increased stress on water resources in Jordan. Aquifers have reached historically low levels, water demand is rising exponentially, water pollution is rising and mismanagement of water resources continues unabated. Water scarcity is a big threat to Jordan’s industrial development, economic growth, food production and the overall well-being of its population. Jordan has already been forced to tap into non-renewable water resources from fossilized deep-water aquifers. The government and citizens should work together to find a plausible solution to tackle the water scarcity plaguing the country.
We are grateful to EcoMENA for the opportunity to reproduce this article, which first appeared here. EcoMENA is a website focused on raising awareness of renewable energy, sustainability, waste management, environment protection, energy efficiency and resource conservation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.