Jordan: Water is life

"The challenge is to manage a most limited vital resource in a way that best responds to the growing needs, and nurtures the health of the next generation."

HELI Technical Advisory Group in Jordan.

A girl fetching water
Duncan Willets/Camerapix

Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water resource availability, per capita, in the world. Water scarcity will become an even greater problem over the next two decades as the population doubles and climate change potentially makes precipitation more uncertain and variable, particularly in this region. Management of water resources is therefore a key issue facing national government authorities. Increasing overall water extraction to meet demand carries a high cost; Jordan is now accessing non-renewable water resources from fossilized deep-water aquifers. Water quantity and quality also have major health and environmental impacts. Assessing those impacts against alternative water management and efficiency strategies, and in the light of policy costs and economic development issues, can optimize the use of a scarce resource.

The Process

The initiative has brought together representatives from the Ministries of Planning, Water, Agriculture, Environment and Health respectively; science and research institutions; consumer/producer associations; and bilateral/international agencies such as USAID and UNDP. A core research group, facilitated by the WHO Regional Centre for Environmental Health Activities (CEHA) in Amman, is preparing a strategic environmental assessment of existing and planned water efficiency policies and various alternatives. The assessment considers linked environment and health impacts together with the economic valuation of health and environment costs and benefits. The review considers issues such as: differential pricing for water use in various sectors; education and awareness campaigns; relative allocation of water for economic production and domestic purposes; wastewater treatment and pollution control; and the agricultural use of purified sewage wastewater. A study group comprised of four teams of government officials and scientists has been formed to conduct the review. At the conclusion of the assessment process, recommendations will be presented to a stakeholder advisory group and before policy-makers, as well as at a WHO/UNEP cosponsored regional workshop hosted by Jordan and involving other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.