Jordan’s Water Scarcity and Red Sea–Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project

Therese El Gemayel, 27 Nov 2018

 

Jordan is characterized by an arid climate and limited natural water resources. Yearly freshwater resources amounted to 780 mcm1 and dams’ capacity amounted to 325 mcm in 2015. To complement the withdrawal of surface and groundwater, the country relies on the treatment of wastewater and desalination (Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation). 

 

Jordan faces significant obstacles addressing the water demand of its population that increased by 42 percent over the last decade (World Population Prospects). The consumption of water is largely absorbed by agriculture. This sector consumed 51 percent of freshwater, 46 percent of groundwater resources and 28 percent of surface water (2015). In 2018, water consumption per capita was estimated at 126 liters per day whereas available renewable water resources per capita amounted to 110 cubic meters per year (MWI, 2018). In addition, water supply amounted to only 1,009 mcm for the same year while water demand was estimated at 1,400 mcm. To address this gap, a first national water strategy for the period 2008–2022 was adopted in 2008, followed by an updated national water strategy for the period 2016–2025. The two strategies are complementary and aim to implement sectoral integrated water resources management approach, to update the legislature system to enhance performance, to reform the water institutional sector for improved internal efficiencies, and build national capacities (MWI).

 

In addition to increasing the capacities of desalination and wastewater treatment, the Red Sea–Dead Sea water conveyance project has been planned since 20052   to provide additional 500 mcm per year, making up 30 percent of water supply by 2022. 

 

The Red Sea–Dead Sea water conveyance project is a joint project with Israel and Palestine, managed by the World Bank. It addresses two major environmental problems. The project proposes the conveyance of water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to solve the alarming declining water levels of the Dead Sea and provides fresh water to Jordanians3 through desalination to solve the water shortage crisis. Nonetheless, there are environmental implications that experts warn against such as the quality and biophysical characteristics of the Dead Sea water, disturbances to the ecosystem at the Wadi Araba and concerns about the contamination of aquifers if any failure of saltwater conveyance occurs. Moreover, “significant concerns exist for the loss or destruction of archeological and culturally significant sites” (World Bank, 2014). 

 

As part of the project’s feasibility study, several alternatives have been studied and evaluated, such as the desalination of water from the Mediterranean Sea and conveyance to Jordan, a pipeline from the Euphrates in Iraq and pipeline from Turkey.   

 

Addressing the environmental effects of climate change on the Dead Sea levels and freshwater supply in Jordan is crucial. However, the environmental impacts of any plan should be highly considered and mitigated as well, given the predictable repercussions on the environment and residents of Jordan. 

 


[1] Million cubic meters

[2] The 3 beneficiary countries have agreed to study the feasibility of the project.

[3] Water generated from the project will be sold to the 3 beneficiary countries, as stated in the project report.


 

Sources:

 

  • Allan, J. et al, Study of Alternatives, Red Sea-Dead Sea water conveyance study program, [Online]. 2014. Available at this link.
  • Jordan Valley Authority, Red Sea-Dead Sea project webpage, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Jordan, [Online]. Available at this link.
  • Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Water for Life: Jordan’s Water Strategy 2008-2022, [Online]. 2009. Available at this link.
  • National Water Strategy 2016-2025. 2016. Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI), Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan [Online]. Available at this link. (accessed on 21 April 2017). 
  • World Bank, Final Environmental and Social Assessment (ESA) Report, Red Sea-Dead Sea water conveyance study, [Online]. 2014. Available at this link.

 


Therese El Gemayel is an environment, energy and statistics consultant. She has worked on development projects in the Western Asia region targeting the enhancement of statistical capacities of government officials in the data collection, validation, analysis and reporting, and the development of evidence-based policies. 

 

The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of neither the Arab Development Portal nor the United Nations Development Programme. 

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