Jordan reaches out for support at the World Water Week in Stockholm 2015 – a water crisis that needs action

In previous years that I have attended the World Water Week in Stockholm I have never shed tears.  This morning was the first time. Alongside the current media attention about Calais in France and the erection of fences to stop migration, or seeking of refuge in the UK, the people of Jordan face a situation on a completely different scale. Jordan’s problem deserves not only much more media attention, but also much more action – and not just short term action!

Having listened to Jordan’s Prime Minister Dr Abdulla Ensour speak yesterday, followed by the Minister of Water and Irrigation, Dr Hazim Elnaser today, talking with Emad Asyan from the Jordanian Government triggered the tears. Although I have never visited Jordan, I have admired the country from a distance for long. In particular for the immense hospitality of the Jordanians to those coming from other countries; those who have fled their homes in other nation states. Jordan has been taking in refugees and migrants for decades.

Over the last two days I have come to appreciate the scale of what is happening at the moment, and particularly what it means for water services, water resources and the people of Jordan. I am very afraid for the future if enough is not done now. The current Syrian crisis has increased Jordan’s population from 6.7 million to over 8.1 million people (perhaps more).  That is an increase of 20%. Of these, 15% are estimated to live in camps, while the rest are hosted within communities in the country.  And let us be reminded that Jordan has taken in an estimated 700,000 from Iraq since the 2003 conflict, not to mention those fleeing Yemen and Libya or before from Palestine.

OK, so why I am I writing a blog about Jordan on the Rural Water Supply Network’s site?  And why the tears? It is because of the water scarcity and the danger of an unimaginable crisis. An increase of 20% of a country’s population in four years would strain the infrastructure of most places.  But Jordan was not the wealthiest place in the world in the first place.  The water infrastructure is buckling.  I have been informed by the government that even in the beautiful city of Amman, that piped water is rationed.  It flows down the pipes for 24 hours in one part of the city before being turned off and flowing to another.  People get flowing water once a week, or one a fortnight. And not only in Amman.

Emad Asyan and Mohammad Al Dwairi of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation have explained to me that the people of Jordan know how to live with little water; how to wash a face with a tiny cup of water.  And they have to know, because Jordan is the second most water scarce country in the world. Perhaps they will soon be in the number one spot. And now imagine a country with such water scarcity hosting so many refugees, so many migrants. The per capita water availability of this small country was 143m3 per person per year but is estimated to now be 120m3 per person per year. I am simply quoting the government.

The groundwater in many parts of the country is simply being over abstracted. More water is being taken out than is being replenished. There is no groundwater regulation, and I am told of parts of the country where borehole driling depths have gone from 250m to 500m in 20 years in order to keep on tapping sufficient water. Jordan’s Prime Minister and Minister for Water and Irrigation have clearly asked the international audience of the World Water Week in Stockholm for assistance.  Not just help to feed or water those living in the refugee camps, but substantial support to build a “resilient water sector”; help to boost water infrastructure and rehabilitate networks. Not short term help or humanitarian assistance, but solid and reliable medium term support.

Who will take up the challenge?  Who will support this country to avert a water crisis? Once the groundwater resources of the country are even further depleted what will become of Jordan, of this nation of hospitality?  Will they be reduced to the next generation of migrants?  What will they be called – “Jordan’s water migrants” or the “water refugees of Jordan”? I wait to see who gives this issue and this country the attention that it deserves, and I wait to see who will join hands to take action?

Will the voices from Jordan at the World Water Week in Stockholm in 2015 be heard and enable the country to build a “resilient water sector”?

RWSN Exchange

RWSN is at Stockholm World Water Week. We are at stand B9 and we have discussions and interviews with key experts going on all week. We will keep an up to date schedule here, so keep checking back here through the week.

    Wednesday 26 Aug

    • 9am “Future proofing rural water systems” with Susan Davies (Improve International)
    • 1pm “Human Right to Water handbook in the SDG era” with Virgina Roaf and Hannah Neumeyer
    • 2pm “Handpump standardisation” with Jess MacArthur, iDE
    • 3:30pm “Solar pumps and prepayment systems” with Craig Williams and Andre, Water Missions International

    Thursday 27 Aug

    • 11am “T-GroUP: Groundwater for the urban poor” with Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI)
    • 2pm “Reflections on household water treatment and universal water access” Maria Besteman (Basic Water Needs”

    Imagine there is access to improved water sources but people don’t use it? Imagine there is no water supply, what are people going to do?


     Blog on Self-supply by André Olschewski, Skat Foundation

    Self-supply are incremental improvements to access and water quality which are financed by own investments. The Self-supply approach and many more interesting topics have been presented and discussed at WEDC Conference 2015 which took place last week in Loughborough, UK.

    Apparently people’s needs and aspirations related to water supply and sanitation and hygiene (WASH) do not always match with the level of service provided by interventions of WASH programmes or to put it differently WASH programmes are not always designed and implemented in a way that they satisfy people needs and aspirations.

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    WEDC Conference Presentation: Future Proofing Rural Water Systems

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    Originally posted on Improve International:

    By Susan Davis, Executive Director

    I gave this talk today at the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) International Conference:

    Good afternoon, I’m Susan Davis from Improve International and I like water.  My water comes to my house every day, all day, and I know it won’t make me sick. Unfortunately, millions of people who thought they had improved water access don’t know the water will come every day, and they don’t know whether it is safe.  Today, I want to talk to you about Future Proofing Rural Water Systems.

    All of you here are probably aware of the high rates of failure and poor functionality of water points in developing countries. These snapshots tell us whether water was flowing or not on the day a water point was visited, but they don’t tell us about some other critical aspects of service – like quality, quantity, reliability, and accessibility.


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    Zambia: Borehole Drilling Harming Ground Water

    THE construction sector in Zambia is at an all-time high, with buildings springing up all around the country, particularly in urban areas.

    It is a building rush cutting across commercial entities and private individuals who are investing heavily in picturesque houses.

    This is a mark of how Zambians have learnt the advantages of becoming homeowners and, consequently, securing the future of their families.

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