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US water strategy aims to aid Jordan in stopping desertification

Global water strategy forecasts intensifying water crises in coming decade

By Hana Namrouqa - Jul 28,2019 - Last updated at Jul 28,2019

WASHINGTON, DC — Jordan is one of 12 nations listed as high-priority countries under the US Global Water Strategy, which envisions a water-secure world by implementing multi-year, country specific water plans, according to an official at the US Department of State.

Jordan has been on the US Global Water Strategy’s list of high-priority countries since it was launched in 2017, the official said, indicating that while the list is subject to change each year, countries are selected based on where needs and opportunities are greatest and where the US has strategic interests.

The Global Water Strategy is an international strategy of the entire US government that works on water abroad, the official said, indicating that it was drafted by the Department of State and USAID, in addition to some 17 US government agencies, as well as the public and stakeholders from the humanitarian world.

“The goal of the strategy is a water-secure world, where people have sustainable supplies of water, adequate to meet human, economic and ecosystem needs, even in the face of floods and droughts,” the US official told a group of journalists participating in a reporting tour on water organised by the State Department’s Foreign Press Centre.

The US government has four priorities for achieving a water-secure world, the official said, indicating that the first priority is increasing access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, the second is water resources management.

The US’ third priority is expanding water cooperation around the world and the fourth involves governance and financing issues.

“This five-year strategy runs through until 2021 and we are in the midst of our implementation period at this point of time,” according to the official.

The official underscored that the Department of State works on several water-related projects around the world, highlighting that the government works with US embassies abroad, “particularly in places of strategic interest to us or where the embassies themselves have chosen to work primarily on water issues”.

“We believe that water can be a tool for cooperation and peace and that is our approach,” the US official highlighted.

Amongst the State Department’s most important programmes is the shared waters partnership, according to the official, who noted that the US government has engaged in that programme in water basins around the world, helping strengthen organisations and nations through US diplomatic engagement.

“You might think sharing data is an easy thing but it is not, nations want to keep their data to themselves and it is sometimes difficult to get that information shared, but that is the first step,” the official said, citing the Mekong River in southeast Asia as an example of the US supporting cooperation across borders.

Regional experts involved in the Blue Peace Initiative, a regional endeavour nurturing trans-boundary water cooperation in the Middle East — of which Jordan is a member — said that confidence-building measures, such as data and technology exchange, and the development of a common methodology should be supported amongst countries sharing trans-boundary water resources.

The initiative calls for turning water into a chance for achieving regional peace instead of a factor in conflicts and wars.

Reports released under the Blue Peace Initiative indicate that Jordan is witnessing desertification due to climate change, with predictions that winter temperatures will rise by 2-3ºC and summer temperatures will increase by 2.5-3.7ºC over the next 50-70 years.

Jordan’s profile at the US Global Water Strategy also indicated that Jordan, a naturally arid country, is facing a growing water crisis, while forecasts suggest these conditions will worsen in the coming decades.

The strategy indicated that in order to help Jordan achieve its water and sanitation objectives, and confront compounding water scarcity challenges, USAID should build sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure, improve water sector management and increase water conservation.

USAID activities aim at reducing water losses, increasing the treatment of wastewater and improving the coverage and reliability of water and sanitation services. 

The US strategy estimates that these activities will “provide more than two million Jordanians with sustainable access to safely managed water, or with water quality improvements, and help more than 180,000 people gain access to safely managed sanitation by 2020”. 

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