Water Worry

The decay and neglect of vital infrastructure is one of the main reasons behind Jordan’s water supply crisis.  

By Yusuf Mansur

One of the most dispiriting facts you often hear about Jordan is that it’s the third most water poor country in the world. Well, sadly, it’s time for an update: Jordan is now considered to be the world’s second most water poor country. Water per capita in the Kingdom is an alarming 88 percent below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters annually.

According to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, available water resources in Jordan offer 800 to 900 million cubic metres of water annually, enough to meet the needs of three million people. The number of water consumers in the Kingdom, however, now exceeds 10 million people according to the Ministry of Interior.

Many have been quick to blame refugees for increasing water scarcity. However, one glaring cause is hardly ever mentioned: Jordan’s dilapidated water and wastewater network.

Amman’s water network alone loses 32 percent annually due to leakages, and 5 percent due to vandalism and illegal pumping. The amount of water losses across the rest of the governorates has reached 46 percent of the total supply. Some governorates suffer rates that are as high as 50 percent or more. The average water loss for the Kingdom as a whole is around 32 percent (which is still better than the 42 percent it was in 2006).

The loss is unaffordable. In fiduciary terms, the government loses JD35 million a year in direct costs, and when taking into account the cost of subsidized electricity used to generate and pump the water, the loss easily hits JD70 million.

In terms of solutions, given the government’s budget shortfalls and fiscal inflexibility, the responses so far have been makeshift and environmentally disastrous. For example, the over exploitation of the important Azraq water basin is having a damaging effect on the surrounding ecosystem. The imposition of heavy fines on those who steal water might be making headlines, but they can only do so much.

Obviously, there’s a need to upgrade and renovate the water network. The onus should be on water operators to employ a comprehensive and continuous strategy to manage and repair leaks (by kerri). Operating procedures need to be continually monitored and updated, and a zoning system to monitor leakages and losses should also be introduced.

Isn’t it time to start asking the question: When will Jordan have a strategy regarding water, and when will it implement it? This matter needs to be tackled urgently before we really are water broke.