This time of year Jordanians become particularly worried about the water situation in the Kingdom. You would have thought everyone would have got used to it by now. Jordan has always faced critical water shortage, at least since the early 1990s and even before that! So no worries, the situation is under control or is it?
Summer blues have always compounded the need for more water especially because of the tourists that tend to flock to Jordan especially from the Gulf and other countries for their holidays. This is not to mention the tourism from the different areas of the globe – Europe, America, the Far East, Russia. But of course, this year might be somewhat different, despite the global opening up because of the trepidation from the covid-19 pandemic which the world is still suffering from especially with the constant variants around the corner.
So in a way, this might still be a good omen to contain our critical water situation in Jordan, but still officials are worried because of our “parched” situation since we’ve been down this road before. But it’s all very well to say that. Before, our population was much less and we could cope with whatever water we have despite our constant complaints!
Now the population of Jordan knocks at around 10 million of which nearly three million are refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq. Above all, studies suggest our water situation would probably satisfy an overall population of 2 million. Jordan is way above that mark and likely to continue to hit even higher figures.
Further, a scientific study from Stanford University suggests Jordan is clearly experiencing a water crisis that is related to global climate change, high water demand and a continual increase in population whether from internal growth and more particularly, from people coming from the outside over a long period of time when it started from the Kuwaiti exodus of the early 1990s, the constant stream of Iraqis throughout that decade and then the 1.5 million Syrians that came to settle in Jordan after the 2011 revolution and civil war in that country.
Thus Jordanian policies-makers, especially those related to water, are constantly being challenged to find more resources and to search for ways to quench the thirst of people in the country. Everything has been tried and tested: In the 1990s, water resources were dragged from Al Azraq, north-east of the country to feed Zerqa and Amman. But this proved not viable because their different oases and potable water soon dried up and had to be quickly replenished through funding from the World Bank and other international entities.
Later, it was the turn of the massive Disi aquifer, a project in the south of the Kingdom that started in 2009, and quickly begun water conveyancing to Amman and the rest of the cities as well as other claims of mass water use. The Disi is now facing the same problem of desalination and mass use of potable water that tends to degrade the ground.
These options have proved short-term and the other solutions to build a Red Sea Desalination Plant or the Red Sea-Dead Sea project have proven to be way too expensive for Jordan with costs prohibitive knocking into the billions of dollars. Still Jordanian policy-makers especially from the Water Ministry, are keeping a stiff upper lip and hoping for a better day of international aid.
But the window of opportunity came at last from the Israelis under the new government of Naftali Bennett who, according to reports becoming widespread that he would be willing to sell Jordan 50 million cubic meters of water from Lake Tiberius for this year to get it out of its desperate fix. And next year he would look at the situation again and release more water.
This would certainly help the country and it would be a sell under the 1994 Jordan-Israel Treaty related to water sharing arrangements between the two countries. Under the previous Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he used the water issue as a political weapon to harm and pressure Jordan into forcing it to accept uncouth policies but to no avail, and relations between Jordan and Israel remained in a ‘Cold War state’.
Under Bennett, the situation appears changing as a first, in a long time. He is on record for saying the water sale deal is being made as a good will gesture to Amman, regardless of the fact that Jordan would pay for it at by no means cheap prices. Bennett is also playing down the fact that it is rumored that the Joe Biden administration pressured him to pass the water bucket to Jordan.
But regardless, with the ‘peace offering’ Jordan will likely sleep easy for the next year or so, till it can again think of a possible long-term solution to a very disparate and complicated problem.
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