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«Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water Security in the Levantine Middle East Mari Luomi (editor) Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water ...»

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Based on recent studies addressing different dimensions of the water problématique and discussions with local experts, it appears evident that there is no silver bullet for fixing the water supply in Beirut. The hydrological conditions remain challenging, and at least until the Awali-Beirut conveyor is built, the gap between demand and supply will keep widening day by day. An infrastructure ruined by conflicts and lack of maintenance leads to great losses of a precious commodity, while unsustainable governance practices make reconstruction and improvements impossible. A severe lack of hydrological and population data makes any planning of water resources management very difficult, and old-fashioned governance practices combined with wasteful consumption habits only serve to aggravate the parlous situation. The lack of water affects different population groups differently, with those who are already the most vulnerable suffering the most.

With its concrete examples of how the water runs, or does not run, in the metropolitan area and how this affects the lives of its inhabitants, the Beirut case provides an enlightening example of the imbalances and malfunctions of the Lebanese water sector. The multitude of problems indicates that any process designed to improve the situation in Beirut needs to take into account the whole picture of both the supply and demand sides, starting from collecting current

115 Yamout & El-Fadel, ‘An Optimization Approach’.

58 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 data that can act as a basis for planning and projections, and also tackling the delicate historical issues related to the governance of water.

Adding to this Gordian knot of problems is another threat that will complicate the situation in the future: climate change. Contextspecific adaptation measures will be necessary as part of the toolkit for improving the water resources governance in Lebanon. However, the higher the temperatures, the more difficult it will be to adapt to the new situation.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 59Taru Savolainen

4 Is more enough? The sustainability of additional water projects in Jordan This chapter presents an overview of Jordan’s water security problems and their causes combined with an analysis of two of the government’s current supply-side solutions: the additional water supply projects at the Disi aquifer and the Red-Dead Sea. The chapter makes a critical assessment of the sufficiency and sustainability of the current measures on both the supply and demand sides and argues that both strategies are necessary in order to alleviate Jordan’s acute water insecurity. However, the country should not rush into supply-side mega-projects before studying their environmental and social effects extremely carefully. Enhancing water-saving schemes, minimizing the share of non-revenue water and reducing irrigation water consumption should be given priority over costly and risky supply-side ventures. Water security should be addressed both in terms of adequate water supply and safe water quality. In order to achieve this, there is also a need for more regional cooperation.

Deficient water balance

Jordan is among the ten water-poorest countries in the world. In 2008, per capita availability was approximately 150 cubic metres 116, which is less than one-third of the so-called acute water poverty line of 500 cubic metres per capita per year. Population growth of 2.2%, urbanization and economic development, not to mention climate 116 FAO Aquastat, ‘Country Fact Sheet, Jordan’. http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquastat/main/ index.stm. Accessed on 7 August 2010.

60 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 change, are placing increasing pressure on the already extremely strained water supply.117 Jordan’s annual renewable freshwater resources are estimated at approximately 940 million cubic metres (Mm 3). 118 Demand, however, is considerably higher. In 2007, total water demand reached 1505 Mm3, which meant that water had to be produced by nonconventional means (reusing treated wastewater and desalination) and also heavily rationed. Even so, domestic extraction exceeded the limit of sustainable water use by 73 Mm3.119 Moreover, Jordan’s water demand is expected to rise to 2240 Mm3 by 2040.120 Precipitation currently stands at only 111 millimetres per year. 121 In comparison, the neighbouring countries, Iraq and Syria, receive annually 216 and 265 millimetres of rain respectively, while the rainy United Kingdom gets 1220 millimetres, or eleven times more than Jordan.122 Climate change is expected to decrease Jordan’s average levels of precipitation even further while increasing the frequency of exceptionally dry years.123 The scarcity of natural renewable freshwater has forced Jordan to resort to non-conventional means of supplementing its water resources: 74-100 Mm3 of treated wastewater are reused annually, and 5 Mm3 of potable water are produced by desalination.124 Due to decreasing freshwater resources and growing demand, the use of 117 CIA, World Factbook 2010, ‘Jordan’, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfactbook/geos/jo.html. Accessed on 7 August 2010.

118 FAO Aquastat, ‘Water Balance Sheet, Jordan’. Accessed on 7 August 2010.

119 Jordanian Royal Commission for Water, Water for Life: Jordan’s Water Strategy 2008-2022 (2009), pp. 1-4 to 1-6.

120 Jordanian Ministry of Environment, Disi Water Conveyance Project (undated). http:// www.jordanecb.org/pdf/investment/majdev_disi.pdf. Accessed on 2 September 2010.





121 Aquastat, ‘Water Balance Sheet, Jordan’.

122 FAO Aquastat, ‘Water Balance Sheets, Iraq, Syria and United Kingdom’. Accessed on 7 August 2010.

123 ESCWA, Knowledge management and analysis of ESCWA member countries capacities in managing shared water resources (2009), p. 49. According to ESCWA, the amount of rain remained below 50 mm in 2008.

124 ESCWA, ESCWA Water Development Report 2: State of Water Resources in the ESCWA Region (2007), p. 15;Royal Commission for Water, Jordan’s Water Strategy 2008-2022, p. 6-1.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 61 non-conventional water is bound to increase substantially in the future.

The country’s water scarcity is also severely worsened by poor infrastructure and a high proportion of unbilled water due to inaccurate or non-operational water meters or a lack of them. Water theft is also common in some regions. For example, in June 2010, five cases of professional large-scale water theft were discovered in southern Amman where 20% of water (out of a total loss of 35%) is lost because of illegal abstraction from the main water pipelines. 125

Climate change arrives on the scene

Jordan’s water sector is highly vulnerable in the face of climate change.

Weakened water security will have negative impacts, for example, on public health, agriculture, employment and food security. All three climate change scenarios used in Jordan’s Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change estimate that the average temperature in the country will rise by approximately 1.0-1.3 degrees Celsius by 2050. During the last 45 years, most parts of Jordan have already experienced decreasing trends in annual precipitation of 5-20%. Climate change is predicted to bring about significant changes in the spatial and temporal distribution of rain and the average level of precipitation is expected to drop. As Jordan’s surface and groundwater resources are highly dependent on rainfall, this is projected to result in less groundwater recharge and therefore fewer available water resources.

Furthermore, the decrease in water resources is expected to cause deterioration in surface and groundwater quality. 126 Rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation increase the risk of droughts, which in turn have numerous social and economic consequences. In 1999-2000, rainfall in Jordan dropped by as much 125 Jordan Times, ‘Large-scale theft posing threat to capital’s water supply – Miyahuna’ (9 June 2010); ibid., ‘Culprits in water theft cases face fines, jail’ (21 July 2010).

126 Jordanian Ministry of Environment, Jordan’s Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (2009), p. 98; ESCWA, ESCWA Water Development Report 1. Vulnerability of the region to socio-economic drought (2005), p. 39.

62 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 as 70% in some regions, which resulted in the lowest agricultural yields and production of the past 40 years. The livelihoods of rural populations were seriously affected as their incomes declined sharply, forcing some into selling property. Small-scale herders and farmers had to move to urban areas to look for work, but many of them ended up unemployed and living in poor conditions. 127 Recurrent droughts have had a significant impact on the gradual withering of Jordan’s agriculture. In 2008, a prolonged drought in Southern Jordan destroyed half of the region’s olive harvest and threatened to decimate as many as 30 000 olive trees.128 Winter 2009 was the driest in the country since 1995 and insufficient, delayed rainfall put vegetable and cereal yields in jeopardy. 129

Water policy road map

Jordanian water policy is guided by a water strategy drawn up by the Jordanian Royal Commission for Water in 2008. The ‘Water for Life Jordan’s Water Strategy 2008-2022’ sets goals and general guidelines for more specific policy programmes to be made by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in cooperation with other relevant ministries and actors. The strategy has a strong focus on water demand management, and it proceeds from the assumption that two large water supply projects, the Disi Water Conveyance Project and the Red-Dead Canal, will be realized as scheduled.

Key factors in controlling the rising water demand, according to the strategy paper, are reducing irrigation water consumption and promoting public awareness about water issues. In 2007, irrigation consumed more than 64% of all the water used in Jordan, while agriculture’s share of the gross domestic product was only 3%. 130 Importantly, only 2.7% of the population works in the agricultural 127 ESCWA, ESCWA Water Development Report 1, pp. 30-36.

128 IRIN Middle East, ‘Jordan: Drought may claim thousands of olive trees’ (17 September 2008), http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=80408. Accessed on 14 September 2010.

129 IRIN Middle East, ‘Jordan: Persistent drought could devastate crops’ (25 December 2008), http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=82091. Accessed on 14 September 2010;

Jordan Times, ‘Kingdom braces for drought-like conditions’ (1 February 2009).

130 Royal Commission for Water, Jordan’s Water Strategy 2008-2022, pp. 5-2.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 63 sector.131 Irrigation water has been considerably subsidized or even free of tariffs, which has curtailed efforts to restrain agriculture’s water consumption.

According to the strategy, the improvement of irrigation water management and reducing consumption are essential for future water security. On-farm irrigation efficiency and wastewater reuse need to be maximized, the latter naturally within the boundaries of high quality and safety standards. Farmers are also encouraged to switch to less water consuming and higher economic value crops by, for example, removing tariffs on imported crops. Bananas are a classic example of a crop that can be imported much more cheaply than it can be cultivated in Jordan, both in terms of money and water. 132 Both water officials and environmental activists aspire to foster a culture of water efficiency and saving among the people. An extra carrot – or stick – in the strategy is provided by raising the water tariffs so that they will encourage people to reduce their water consumption. Water prices will be set on the basis of water quality and the end users. The individual user groups’ ability to meet the tariffs and the effects of pricing on economic sectors will be taken into account in setting the tariffs.133 By 2022 the share of non-revenue water should plummet to 25%, of which technical water losses would constitute 15%. 134 Currently, the water loss is estimated at about 42%.135 Technical loss is to be diminished by, for example, optimizing management procedures and rehabilitating water supply infrastructure and systems. Another important step is reforming legislation and imposing sanctions on illegal water pumping. July 2010 witnessed the introduction of new amendments to the Jordanian Penal Code, according to which stealing water, sabotaging networks, illegal pumping or tampering with water meters will result in a prison sentence of three months to one year and a fine of 100-500 Jordanian dinars (110-570 euros). 136 131 CIA, World Factbook 2010, ‘Jordan’.

132 Royal Commission for Water, Jordan’s Water Strategy 2008-2022, p. 8/2.

133 Ibid., pp. 8/1-8/10.

134 Ibid., p. 8/3.

135 Jordan Times, ‘Desalination key to solving Jordan’s water woes – expert’ (9 September 2010).

136 Jordan Times, ‘Steal water, go to jail, new campaign warns’ (25 August 2010).

64 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Jordan’s water strategy also entails various supply-side measures of different scales, one of the boldest being the study of artificial rainmaking technology under the guidance of Thailand’s bureau of royal rainmaking and agricultural aviation. 137 The major schemes to boost the country’s water supply are, however, the Disi Water Conveyance Project and the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conveyance Project.

In both cases the extra water is to be extracted from a shared water resource and both projects have been subject to long planning phases and fierce public discussion.

Additional water projects – with or without neighbours

Jordan shares most of its fresh surface and groundwater resources with its neighbours.138 About half of Jordan’s surface water originates from the Yarmouk River, which is shared by Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. As the largest tributary of the Jordan River, the Yarmouk marks the border between Jordan and Israel close to the Jordan Valley and further upstream it separates Jordan from Syria.

Although Jordan has effective water-sharing agreements with Israel (since 1994) and Syria (since 1986/7) the riparian countries face conflicting interests at the upper part of the river. 139 Since Jordan is a downstream riparian country of both the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers, its water supply is highly vulnerable to conflicts in the region.



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