Mitigating the Risk of Extreme Water Scarcity and Dependency: The Case of Jordan

Joep Schyns, Arwa Hamaideh, Arjen Hoekstra, Mesfin Mekonnen, Marlou Schyns
2015 Water  
Jordan faces great internal water scarcity and pollution, conflict over trans-boundary waters, and strong dependency on external water resources through trade. This paper analyzes these issues and subsequently reviews options to reduce the risk of extreme water scarcity and dependency. Based on estimates of water footprint, water availability, and virtual water trade, we find that groundwater consumption is nearly double the groundwater availability, water pollution aggravates blue water
more » ... s blue water scarcity, and Jordan's external virtual water import dependency is 86%. The review of response options yields 10 ingredients for a strategy for Jordan to mitigate the risks of extreme water scarcity and dependency. With respect to these ingredients, Jordan's current water policy requires a strong redirection towards water demand management. Actual implementation of the plans in the national water strategy (against existing oppositions) would be a first step. However, more attention should be paid to reducing water demand by changing the consumption pattern of Jordanian consumers. Moreover, unsustainable exploitation of the fossil Disi aquifer should soon be halted and planned desalination projects require careful consideration regarding the sustainability of their energy supply. OPEN ACCESS Water 2015, 7 5706 Keywords: water scarcity; water pollution; water footprint; virtual water trade; water dependency; water risk; water security; sustainability; water policy improve irrigation efficiency and encouraging farmers to grow less water-intensive crops [1] . Domestic water demand is unmet and still increasing (by 40%-46% in the period 2000-2010 [4,6]). This increase is due to rapid population growth, caused by a high rate of natural population growth and periodic massive influxes of refugees [1, 2, 5, 6, 15] . In 2014, the refugee population in Jordan, mostly consisting of Syrians, was around 10% of the country's total population (Figure 2 ). These are officially registered refugees only and the actual number is likely to be higher. Since the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Israel/Palestine are ongoing, there is every reason to believe that the number of people seeking refuge in Jordan is growing. Overconsumption of Jordan's surface and groundwater resources is associated with several environmental impacts. Due to the high amount of abstractions along its course, the Jordan River has shrunk to a small creek by the time it reaches the Dead Sea, with current discharge being less than 5% of historical levels [6, 7] . This has led to an alarming decline of the Dead Sea level, which in turn causes lowering of groundwater tables in adjacent aquifers [4] . Since the 1970s, the water level of the Dead Sea has dropped at a rate of about 1 meter per year [25, 26] . With each meter of reduction, 300 × 10 6 m³ of fresh water is lost from neighboring aquifers [25] . Groundwater levels are rapidly dropping throughout the country [1, 2, 5] . This has led to the drying up of springs and disappearance of the Azraq wetlands [3], with reduced habitat for endemic species and migratory birds as a consequence [1] . Problems of surface and groundwater pollution are widespread in Jordan, which aggravates water scarcity [27] . Inadequate treatment of industrial and domestic wastewater and over-and misuse of fertilizers and pesticides pollute these resources [1, 6, 28] . The canals that distribute water throughout Jordan are more and more polluted by salts and other agricultural runoff [4] . Pollution of groundwater is exacerbated by overpumping, which leads to a concentration of salts and other pollutants [1, 17, [29] [30] [31] [32] . Hotspots of groundwater pollution in the regions of Amman, Zarqa, and Balqa have been mapped by Alqadi et al. [33] . The pollution of water in Jordan is also partially a trans-boundary issue. The Jordan River Basin suffers from agricultural runoff and untreated wastewater from all riparian countries [1]. Jordan thus faces great internal water scarcity and pollution, conflict over trans-boundary waters, and strong dependency on external water resources through trade. Given the great variety of challenges, sustainable water management in Jordan is a challenging task, which thus far has not succeeded. The objective of this paper is to analyze Jordan's domestic water scarcity and pollution and the country's external water dependency, and subsequently review options to reduce the risk of extreme water scarcity and dependency. In the next section we discuss methods and data. In the third section we analyze the water situation in Jordan from a water footprint perspective, with the aim of accurately quantifying the severity of water scarcity and pollution in Jordan. In the fourth section, we analyze the country's dependency on external water resources by quantifying and mapping the world-wide water consumption associated with the products and commodities Jordanians consume. In the fifth section, we review possible responses to Jordan's water problems and external water dependency.
doi:10.3390/w7105705 fatcat:v6ctgbbr2fa55ps2jobt2yrcoa