A US-funded wastewater system renovation brings about a new chapter for the Kingdom’s third largest city.
By Max Marin
Water is running clean again in Zarqa, thanks to a $275 million grant from the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) that radically overhauled the governorate’s destitute water and wastewater networks.
It was one of the largest water and sanitation projects in the Kingdom’s history. The Millennium Challenge Company’s CEO Kamal Zoubi said there have been massive improvements in the quality of potable water and its networks in Zarqa since the projects launched.
But its successes can’t simply be measured in kilometers of new piping. Under the leadership of MCA-Jordan, an arm of the Jordanian government created to implement MCC’s grant, the projects included extensive efficient outreach to the poorest families in the Zarqa region. They also followed through on a commitment to train women in the plumbing profession, creating jobs and empowering the disadvantaged to generate income.
All told, project leaders hope that these accomplishments will set a new bar for foreign-backed aid projects in Jordan and beyond.
Improving the Quality of Life
It started with a vision.
The MCC is an innovative US foreign aid agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty, according to its Director, Alex Russin. In 2010, MCC reached an agreement with the Kingdom. They would sign a compact with the goal of spurring economic growth in one of Jordan’s most impoverished and densely populated regions –the Zarqa governorate.
The magnitude of the problem was no secret: Jordan is among the world’s driest countries, a country where water scarcity impacts every aspect of daily life. Nowhere is this more evident than in economically devastated areas. Through a $275 million grant, the MCC Jordan Compact was designed to increase the effective supply of water available to the residents in the Zarqa governorate, through improvements in the efficiency of water delivery, the extent of wastewater collection and the capacity of wastewater treatment.
MCC’s projects have delivered on a promise to reduce waste, improve the provision of water to citizens, and revamp the wastewater disposal network. It took five years. But the end result also yielded more than just clean water.
These projects provided some 3000 direct full-time job opportunities for Jordanians in various fields, including engineers, supervisors, workers and drivers. This job growth has helped stimulate the governorate’s economy, Zoubi said.
The jobs came from the sheer amount of work required. Under the five-year program, which began in 2011 and concluded in 2016, several projects were carried out, a team of local and foreign-aid workers collaborated to rehabilitate over 800 kilometers of water networks in the cities of Zarqa and Russeifa.
A reservoir and a pumping station were built in the Al-Basateen area of Russeifa, and 50,000 water meters were replaced. This component of the project, which $82 million of the grant, worked to reduce water loss and increase water supply hours from 36 to 72 a week, according to Zoubi.
The success was buttressed by a $6.4 million Water Smart Homes-Activity (WSHs-A) project. This was part of the larger water network project that aimed to improve the state of water systems inside houses across the governorate a blessing to low-income families.
Under the WSHs-A project, repairs were made to water and wastewater systems inside 4,000 homes occupied by beneficiaries from the National Aid Fund. The project included a program that trained 30 women to become plumbers, thanks to collaboration with the Vocational Training Corporation. These women were later trained by the MCA-Jordan’s contractors, and afterward participated in workshops that helped them improve their skills in establishing, managing and marketing small projects.
Zoubi stated that the project has achieved its objectives through three main activities. The first was an awareness campaign under the slogan “By Water We Live – We Preserve it to Survive.” Twelve women’s associations in the cities of Zarqa and Russeifa came together to conduct awareness sessions that successfully reached 3,000 women. These awareness sessions were held at 225 schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, where they reached and benefited an additional 33,000 male and female students. On top of that, in cooperation with the Ministry of Awqaf, female leaders delivered around 600 awareness sessions that reached another 11,000 women.
Additionally, over 4,000 sessions were held at beneficiaries of the National Aid Fund, and 20 other sessions were held at tribal meeting places. In total, awareness campaigns directly reached 60,000 people with the aid of promotional campaigns through billboards and social media.
At a cost of $75 million, the wastewater network project was another major component of the total grant. It included the replacement and restructuring of the main wastewater lines as well as expanding the lateral sewage lines in the Zarqa, Russeifa and Hashimiyah suburbs. This helped expand the benefits of the wastewater network services in the governorate from 72 to 82 percent of the population, contributing to the reduction of wastewater overflow into the streets and increasing the ability to collect wastewater for treatment and recycling. The project also included the installation of over 300 kilometers of wastewater pipes.
Zoubi added that the organization also worked alongside the Ministry of Water and Irrigation as well as the private sector to expand the Khirbet Al-Samra wastewater treatment plant, building on the previous expansion funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The latest effort brought modern technologies to treat 70 percent of wastewater in Jordan and provide 133 million cubic meters of treated wastewater to be used for irrigation in the Jordan Valley, representing 10 percent of Jordan’s annual water resources. MCC partially financed the project with $96 million.
Zoubi also revealed that MCA-Jordan’s achievements were recognized by MCC during the agency’s 10th anniversary event. MCA-Jordan was awarded the Country Commitment Award in recognition of its exemplary commitment to achieve MCC’s innovative and results-driven approach to development.