Water of the Middle East and North Africa

What Does the Future Hold for Water in Jordan?

Petra, Jordan - water in Jordan
Photo 1: Petra, Jordan. (Credit: Ruben Vermeer)

Water is central to Jordan’s social, economic and political security. The growing gap between water supply and demand, the issues related to transboundary water resources, climate change and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the last decades have increased the country’s vulnerability to water-related instability.

Jordan’s future is very much dependent on successfully addressing these challenges as well as on the ability of the government to identify solutions. For Jordan to meet its growing needs it must expand its water supplies by exploiting new resources (see Current and Planned Infrastructure Projects), while decreasing pressure on the over-extracted groundwater resources. At the same time, making better use of the limited water supply by implementing more efficient demand-side strategies is critical. This includes a focus on preserving water, reducing system leakages and increasing wastewater usage.

In many ways, past policies and practices have exacerbated the problems of access, abstraction and overuse of this essential natural resource. After decades of relying mainly on supply-side solutions, Jordan has expanded its approaches to addressing these problems. Examples include improved wastewater recovery; engaging the public by raising awareness of better management of the available water resources; and developing a better framework for policy setting. For these and other solutions to be effective, it is essential for Jordan to modify the design of institutional oversight and control processes across water use sectors and strengthen linkages within and between institutions and sectors.

Ultimately, the future of water availability in Jordan depends on finding long-term solutions that ensure access to water resources and their sustainable use. The regional political context keeps shifting, impacting Jordan’s strategies for water security. Deteriorating Jordanian-Israeli relations in recent years resulted in the Red Sea-Dead Sea Project being abandoned and driving Jordan towards a national solution: the National Water Carrier. At the same time, the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel resulted in 2021 in a new plan for potential Jordanian-Israeli-Emirati cooperation: a solar power plant in southern Jordan – financed by the UAE – to produce energy for Israel, in exchange for desalinated water supplied by Israel to Jordan. The challenge for Jordan, again, will be to balance different trade-offs, long-term and short-term considerations and intersectoral demands, ensuring reliability and sustainability – including political and social – in terms of sources.