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Jordan's water crisis offers a warning for world — report

Kingdom’s per capita water supply will be halved by end of century, report says

By Batool Ghaith - Aug 01,2021 - Last updated at Aug 01,2021

A Syrian refugee carries water at Zaatari camp, some 80km northeast of Amman, in this photo taken on January 28, 2018 (Photo by Amjad Ghsoun)

AMMAN — Jordan's per capita water supply will be halved by the end of the century due to dwindling water supplies and a growing population, according to a report by Laboratory News.

Laboratory News has been providing scientists with independent news and analysis since 1971, according to its website.

The report, “Jordan's Water Crisis Should Be a Warning for the World”, issued in March, indicated that Jordan's water supply is rapidly decreasing due to climate change, population growth, demographic shocks and heightened competition for water across country boundaries. The same challenges could affect global water supplies in the future.

The report warned that without intervention, only a few households in the Kingdom will have access to even 40 litres (10.5 gallons) of piped water per person per day.

According to the report, low-income neighbourhoods will be hit the hardest. Ninety-one per cent of low-income households are predicted to receive less than 40 litres daily for 11 consecutive months per year by 2100, the report said.

The report noted that Jordan's water crisis provides a glimpse of issues looming in other parts of the world. For instance, as a result of upstream diversion in Palestine and Syria, water flows from the Jordan-Yarmouk river system, the region's largest river system, have significantly decreased. 

Demand for water has climbed largely due to population growth exacerbated by the arrival of refugees, including more than 1 million Syrian refugees in the past decade, the report added.

The report pointed out that the UN has committed to ensuring sustainable freshwater management and universal access to clean water and sanitation as one of its 17 sustainable development goals. The World Health Organisation estimates that half of humanity may live in water-stressed areas by 2025. The UN estimates that water scarcity could displace 700 million people by 2030.

The most effective step Jordan can take to increase supply is through large-scale desalination. One proposal Jordan has pursued since the 1960s would desalinate water from the Red Sea in the south, transport the freshwater north to Amman and then dispose of the leftover, highly salinated water in the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea, the report indicated.

Dureid Mahasneh, the chairman of the Edama (Sustainability of Water, Energy and Environment) Society, stressed the importance of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project (RSDSC). He described the project as “the only way to not end up with half the water demand per capita in Jordan by the end of the century". 

According to Mahasneh, the project is currently stopped.

Mahasneh told The Jordan Times on Sunday that Jordan's water crisis depends on many factors, but most importantly the rapidly growing population compared to the available water sources. "The Syrian crisis alone caused the population to increase in the Kingdom by approximately 15 percent, which is an abnormal growth,” he added. 

Mahasneh noted that the water resources in Jordan are greatly affected by climate change, as the increasing temperatures induce faster water evaporation. “In previous years, we used to have 9 to 10 billion cubic metres of rainfall; however, in recent years it is impossible to even reach 3 billion cubic metres. We can only sustain 7 to 10 per cent of it,” he said.

The agriculture industry consumes at least 60 per cent of the water resources in Jordan, while the economic return is less than 5 per cent, Mahasneh said. He stated how this indicates a problem with water management. 

“There are multiple issues that require strong deterrent laws in order to prevent some individuals from stealing and misusing water as well,” Mahasneh said.

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