Regional Knowledge Network on Water


Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab kingdom in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River with an estimated population of 6,249,000. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, and Palestine to the west. It consists of an arid plateau in the east, irrigated by seasonal water streams, with highland area in the west of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry.

The climate in Jordan is influenced by Jordan's location between the subtropical aridity of the Arabian desert areas and the subtropical humidity of the eastern Mediterranean area. With hot, dry summers and cool winters during which practically all of the precipitation occurs, the country has a Mediterranean-style climate in north and west areas and subtropical aridity in south and east areas. Considering climate characteristics and natural variations of the hydro-system over Jordan, Jordan is considered one of the poorest nations worldwide (the second poorest country according to reports published in 2014); approximately 80 % of the country receives less than 100mm of precipitation per year. Further, potential evaporation rates range from around 2000mm per year in the highlands to over 5000mm per year in the desert region.

Overall, renewable freshwater resources range from 780 to 850 MCM per year. On the other hand, the current demand for water is about 955 MCM (Salman, 2000). Irrigated agriculture is the largest consumer constituting around 64% of the overall uses compared to only 36% for municipal, industrial and tourism purposes. Jordan has a series of conventional and nonconventional water resources. Conventional water resources include surface water and groundwater while nonconventional water resources include harvested rainwater, treated wastewater, treated brackish water, and grey water.

Water in the desert represents a significant part of the water budget in Jordan. This water is dispersed over a wide area and, if properly collected, could provide a significant addition to the water reserves of the country.

While Jordan has 12 surface water basins only three surface water basins contains permanent rivers. Since Jordan has very limited surface water, it is greatly dependent on groundwater. Groundwater is available in renewable and non-renewable forms in 12 distinct groundwater basins. Abstraction exceeds safe yield in most of the 12 groundwater basins. The average annual abstraction from all basins exceeds the renewable average of recharge and currently stands at 159% of that average (Stephen Northcliff et al, 2008). Among the 12, there are 11 renewable groundwater reservoirs in Jordan. Their sustainable yields vary from one reservoir to another, and their combined sustainable yield is 275 million cubic meters per year. The over-abstraction resulted in significant decline in both quantity and quality of the groundwater resources. Moreover, evident contamination is observed in shallow groundwater systems due to the application of pesticides and fertilizers. Further, wastewater seeps from septic tanks resulting in significant threats too. Shortages in water resources result in stresses over drought periods. These stresses may result in severe damage to the ecosystem due to the lack or deficiency of supporting environmental factors including moisture and organic matter.

To sum up, present water problems are attributed to the following reasons (N. Hadadin et al, 2010):

  1. The lack of precipitation undesirably affects the country's amount of surface water, and climactic changes have lessened the rainfall.
  2. Over abstraction of groundwater due to the rapid population growth coupled with increased urbanization and industrialization lead to groundwater decline and deterioration.
  3. Inadequate industrial and municipal wastewater management result in pollution of ground and surface water resources. And also rain fall flocculation and reduction, high potential evaporation, mismanagement and illegal use of water resources and old reticulation system, waves of refugee from politically unstable region, population growth rate 2.2, urbanizations and living standard, low ground water recharge due hard topography and infrastructures as 90 % of the population staled on the western highland relatively high rainfall.

Due to the water scarcity in Jordan, the management of water resources is considered complex from a political, technical, socio-economic and environmental perspective. The water budget of Jordan is around 1billion cubic meters per annum, which is considered relatively low when compared to the social, economic, and environmental needs of the country. In any water strategy the following stakeholders: domestic, industrial, tourist, and agricultural sectors should be considered.

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