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Reckless water use, climate change effects accelerate path to thirsty future

Jul 16,2022 - Last updated at Jul 16,2022

Washing cars with a hose rather than a bucket has become a common practice in some areas of Amman, wasting large quantities of a much-need precious resource that Jordan witnesses a dearth of, especially as the Kingdom is the second poorest country in terms of water in the world. 

Such a practice is irresponsible and reckless in a country whose per capita share of water is 90 cubic metres per year, representing less than one-tenth of the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic metres annually.

Jordan’s water share per capita is expected to witness a further slight decline driven by growing demand, decline in precipitation and the ramifications of climate change, before the share is restored to current levels once the Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Conveyance Project comes into being, which is expected in 2027.

To ration water consumption amid critical shortages or heatwaves, countries and water companies at times resort to hosepipes ban as a means to control household water consumption. In fact, several countries across the world, such as Italy and the UK, have on several occasions imposed hosepipe bans, preventing households from using hoses to water their gardens or wash their cars and imposing hefty fines on violators. 

This month, a report by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle stated that southern European countries are increasingly feeling the impact of water scarcity amplified by climate change and over-consumption of water, forcing governments from Portugal to Italy to call for rationing water consumption, including the prohibition of  some practices, in some areas, such as washing cars or watering gardens with hosepipes .

Water is a scarce resource across the world and any careless water use in Jordan should not be tolerated, instead it should be fined. In Jordan, climate change is already taking its toll on the country’s water sector which is evident by a decline in precipitation and erratic rainfall with changing intensity.

Currently, the country’s 14 major dams hold only 25 per cent of their capacity of 280 million cubic metres, and most of the country’s 12 groundwater basins have been depleted due to over pumping. Demand for drinking water is growing by 8 per cent every year in Jordan while the agricultural sector consumes around 49 per cent of Jordan’s water resources, according to the Water Ministry.

One of the major challenges facing the water sector in Jordan is the large percentage of non-revenue water, which stands currently at 50 per cent. Although tremendous efforts have been exerted and several projects have been implemented, much more still needs to be done and Jordan needs the support of the international community in this regard. Ensuring a sustained water supply is vital for Jordan’s development goals and boosting the various economic sectors.

There is a lot of work ahead to address the challenges the water sector is facing and this requires continued international support, optimal utilisation of available water resources, changing water consumption habits and resorting to rationing. In addition, authorities should intensify crackdowns on water thefts and upgrade the worn-out networks.

The population of the Kingdom, where a good portion of the land is desert, is projected to reach around 16 million by 2040, which puts the concerned authorities in a race against time to meet the rising demand and address the challenges the sector is facing.

Experts believe that the key for addressing Jordan’s water needs is through the Red Sea water and increased reliance on treatment of wastewater. The country is working day and night to move ahead with the Aqaba-Amman water project, whose implementation is strategic to Jordan’s development and security, whose stability is crucial to regional peace.

Most of the country’s households get water once a week and some areas get water every three weeks and complaints are on the rise. To address the shortage in drinking water, Jordan has purchased 50 million cubic metres of water this year from Israel whose supply will be completed by September, and Jordan plans to buy an additional 50mcm of water from Israel in 2023.

Challenges are immense and being wasteful and careless about the water is something that should not be tolerated amid a recent warning by the Water Ministry that this year is the worst year for Jordan’s water sector.

The writer is editor-in-chief of The Jordan Times and regularly writes for international media outlets.

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