AMMAN — The government and individuals share responsibility for protecting Jordan's limited water resources by rationing water consumption, experts and officials in the water sector said on Monday.

Empowering local communities to address the Kingdom's water shortage is vital, they said, highlighting that implementing large-scale water projects will not curb the water deficit unless efficient water use is applied at a household level.

"Local communities play a major role in the sustainability of water resources… protecting water resources is not only the government's responsibility," Water Authority of Jordan Secretary General Fayez Batayneh said.

Batayneh made his remarks during a conference on the Community-Based Initiatives for Water Demand Management (CBIWDM) project, organised by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in cooperation with Mercy Corps, the Royal Scientific Society and the Jordan River Foundation, and supported by USAID.

The Kingdom's water challenges, including scant resources and variable rainfall, require the exploration of alternative water resources and better management of existing resources, Batayneh said.

"To cope with the water shortage, the ministry is using more than 100 million cubic metres of treated wastewater for agricultural purposes and encouraging the use of water-saving fixtures at hotels, government premises and households," Batayneh underscored.

Official figures indicate that water demand management activities can save Jordan 400 million cubic metres of water each year.

Batayneh noted that the ministry also encourages and supports grass-roots projects in rural areas, including rainfall harvesting and building wells.

During the conference, which brought together over 250 participants, experts discussed the role of household-level projects in saving water and called for expanding the CBIWDM project.

Under the project, societies across the Kingdom receive grants from USAID and Mercy Corps, then extend them to citizens as revolving loans to implement water efficiency projects.

The project, implemented by Mercy Corps in cooperation with the Jordan River Foundation and the Royal Scientific Society, was launched in 2006 and concludes next year.

Mercy Corps Director in Jordan Robert Maroni said the projects empowered local communities to alleviate the impact of poverty and water scarcity, while ensuring sustainability of natural resources.

The project’s three phases entail revolving loans and capacity-building programmes for 135 societies, communal grants for 30 societies, and integrated water and energy resource management initiatives at the community level.

The revolving loans have thus far benefitted 28,000 people, while 74 projects have been implemented at the community level, including 31 in schools, 18 in mosques and 25 in water springs, according to Mercy Corps.

The projects included rainwater harvesting, maintenance of ancient wells, maintenance of residential networks, installation of drip irrigation systems, maintenance of irrigation channels and water springs, and the reuse of grey water.