Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Demand Management

View of Amman by night, Jordan. Photo: David Bjorgen.Government strategies to solve water shortages in Jordan have focused more on the identification of new water sources (a supply-driven approach), while the reduction of demand (a demand-driven approach) has received less attention.

For example, the country approved a National Water Strategy in 1997. Out of 47 recommendations, only five addressed demand-related approaches. These included maximizing efficiency of water transportation and use, getting the most out of every unit of water used, identifying key stakeholders and each of their water conservation roles, and promoting water-use-efficient technology. Specific recommendations addressed a priority goal of providing 100 litres per person per day (considered by the United Nations as the minimum to effectively meet basic human needs). This was to be achieved, in part, by better data on water available at the national level, utilizing all available wastewater for agricultural use (freeing up more fresh water for domestic use) and sustainably developing aquifer resources. All of this was to be achieved through a five-year development plan.

In 2002, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation established its Water Demand Management Unit (WDMU). The WDMU was given the mandate to implement a national demand management programme. This was to be achieved by establishing a centre of excellence staffed by technical experts. Mission success is tied to addressing the challenges in partnership with key institutional water supply and irrigation sector stakeholders. The goal was to aid in the development of effective policies, legislation and public awareness programmes aimed at reducing the water resource supply and demand gap.

The Ministry of Water and Irrigation further outlined in 2008 its focus on improving water supply to the domestic and industrial sectors and on reducing demand in the agricultural sector. While in 2013 agriculture still used about 53% of the country’s total water budget, efforts are being made to address this. For example, the drilling of new agricultural wells has been sharply curtailed and licences can now only be obtained with great difficulty and in certain areas. At the same time, licences for the drilling of new wells that supply water for domestic or industrial use are still being issued.[1]

Downtown Amman, Jordan. Photo: mayanais.
Downtown Amman, Jordan. Photo: mayanais.

The domestic sector

Other initiatives taken by the ministry’s WDMU include implementing water tariffs to promote conservation, conducting media campaigns to raise public awareness and leveraging resources to implement programmes through private-sector participation arrangements.

The WDMU has also addressed water conservation through legislation, technology (including introducing water-saving devices in new construction and retrofitting existing systems), landscape and garden design, and grey-water[2] reuse. Community grants and pilot projects have been used to assist poorer and rural communities implement water conservation and/or efficiency initiatives, including practices and technology.

The industrial sector

Programmes aimed at water demand management in the industrial sector include using treated wastewater instead of fresh water in industrial processes, using lower-quality water (e.g. irrigation drainage and brackish water instead of fresh water), using more water-efficient equipment and processes, and improving preventive maintenance on water systems to reduce leaks.

The agricultural sector

In the agricultural sector, demand management initiatives include continuing increased use of treated wastewater, using more efficient irrigation techniques and technology, growing crops that are more water efficient and produce higher economic value, and introducing tariffs on groundwater pumping.

[1] Abdel Khaleq, R., 2008. Water Demand Management in Jordan.
[2] Grey water is “the output from bathtubs, showers, sinks and washing machines, which, although soiled, is not as contaminated as toilet water. As such it can be relatively easily treated on-site for use in non-potable contexts such as toilet flushing and garden irrigation” (Water Demand Management in Jordan, page 6).