Waking up one morning, Jamila (not her real name) was planning to do both her laundry and take a shower before embarking on her daily routines. Once the laundry was done, Jamila came to realize that there was no more water left for her to shower. This is the reality of life for many Jordanians where water is in limited supply and not a basic right, as many perceive it to be. With decisions like this plaguing Jordanian lives, one fears what the future holds for water in the country.
Jordan is one of the most arid countries in the Middle East and is facing severe water shortages. Current per capita supply is 200 cubic meters per person, less than a third of the global average, which stands at 617 cubic meters per person. To make matters worse, it is projected that its population (currently at 6 million) will reach 9 million by 2025 causing a decline in the aforementioned per capita water supply to only 91 cubic meters per person (less than a sixth of the recommended average!). The government has been trying to reduce the rising demand for water through publicity and awareness campaigns. Although working on decreasing the previously mentioned demand for water and promoting efficient water use is an important way of reducing water scarcity, it is still not enough.
Groundwater resources account for 54% of Jordan’s total water supply, and are being threatened by pollution due to over-pumping of aquifers, seepage from landfill sites, and improper disposal of dangerous chemicals. Due to the large amount of fresh water used from aquifers, governments must try to manage the water supply by proper and efficient distribution, and protecting these water sources from pollution. Therefore, managing the supply end of water resources as well as the demand end is of great importance.
The government must start its water supply management by enforcing regulation on water extraction from groundwater aquifers. The lack of such strict enforcement allows for illegal private sector well drilling, and instigates unsustainable extraction of water from the aquifers, which are currently being used at twice the recharge rate. This in turn prevents the aquifer from naturally replenishing, causing it to diminish over time and eventually run dry.
The government must also take initiative in renovating old and rusted water pipes that supply many homes with the water they need. For example, in the United States alone, water leaks waste 1 trillion gallons of water every year, which is equivalent to the annual water usage of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined. The previous example illustrates the severity of the damage that can be caused by leaks if they are not fixed. Furthermore, rusted pipes can cause a change in the color and taste of the water, triggering additional water loss through the disposal of dirty water. Therefore, renovating old pipes, and replacing them is very important.
A key component of water supply management is utilizing alternative sources of water such as wastewater treatment plants, which allow the re-use of waste and brackish water. This not only creates an additional water supply source, but also reduces the reliance on the natural water supplies, such as ground water, giving aquifers more time to replenish and recharge. Importantly, wastewater treatment is a potential source of energy, through harnessing the methane produced by the sewage water. Furthermore, water treatment plants reduce environmental pollution by extracting wastewater that is usually disposed off into rivers and aquifers in the form of runoffs. The government has been planning to build wastewater treatment plants throughout Jordan, such as the Amman-Zarqa wastewater treatment plant. However, these plants have yet to be built, and Jordan has yet to use wastewater treatment to its full potential.
The time to act is now. Soon water scarcity will be too severe to tackle and water supplies will run out. Conclusively, according to the above-mentioned facts, governments must find a balance between managing both the demand for water and the water supply if they are to tackle the water scarcity plaguing the country.
Photo credit: Tareq