Jordan WASH Sector

Jordan is the second most water scarce country in the world. Jordan’s annual renewable water resources are less than 100 m3 per person, significantly below the threshold of 500 m3 per person which defines severe water scarcity.

While more than 98% of the population has access to an improved water source, only 93% access a safely-managed source and 86% to a piped network. In urban areas, water is usually available once a week, and less than once every two weeks in rural areas, with reduced frequency during the summer. Only 77.3% of existing sanitation systems are safely managed and only a third of schools have basic sanitation services.

Overview

In May 2009, King Abdullah gave the go-ahead for a new National Water Strategy until 2022, replacing an earlier Water Strategy from 1998. The strategy included investments of Jordanian Dinar 5.86 billion (US$8.24 billion) over a period of 15 years, corresponding to more than 160% of Jordan’s GDP. It also foresaw a decreasing reliance on groundwater from 32% in 2007 to 17%, increased use of treated wastewater in agriculture from 10% to 13% and increased use of desalination from 1% to 31%. According to then-Minister of Water, Raed Abu Soud, even after the completion of the Disi Water Conveyance Project, the water deficit in 2022 would be about 500 million cubic metres. The strategy also envisaged institutional reforms such as enacting a new water law, separating operational from administrative functions, as well as production from distribution operations, creating a Water Council with advisory functions and establishing a Water Regulatory Commission.

The influx of about one million refugees from Syria since 2012 increased the population of Jordan to more than nine million. It also increased water demand substantially.

ClimateChange_iStock75065815-1024x683

 

 

While more than 98% of the population has access to an improved water source, only 93% access a safely-managed source and 86% to a piped network. In urban areas, water is usually available once a week, and less than once every two weeks in rural areas, with reduced frequency during the summer. Only 77.3% of existing sanitation systems are safely managed and only a third of schools have basic sanitation services.

According to WAJ, only 65% of the population are connected to the sewerage system. The rest of those having access to improved sanitation, use on-site sanitation solutions such as septic tanks. These septic tanks, if not lined properly, may leak to the groundwater aquifers and contaminate them.

Service Quality​

Continuity of Supply

Aqaba, the only city in Jordan that enjoys continuous drinking water supply, receives its water by gravity from the fossil Disi aquifer.

Water supply in the Jordanian highlands, where most of the population lives, is generally intermittent. According to a 2008 study by the University of Michigan, water is delivered once a week in big cities like Amman and once every twelve days in some rural areas. According to a 2007 survey the mean rate of supply per week was 1.5 days in Madaba governorate, 2.9 days in Balqa governorate and 3.2 days in Zarqa governorate. In Amman, according to the water distribution plan of Miyahuna, 8 out of 44 main distribution zones received continuous water supply “except in emergency cases” in 2012. Most other distribution zones were scheduled to receive water for either once a week for 24 hours or twice a week for a total of 36–48 hours. To what extent actual supply follows the distribution program, especially during summer, is not clear. Since the Disi-Amman Conveyor became operational in summer 2013 the continuity of supply in Amman has increased.

Wadi Musa and the neighboring villages of Taiba, B’Doul and Beida were among the few localities in the Highlands that briefly enjoyed continuous water supply after a new well field had been built and the distribution network had been rehabilitated in 2001. However, only a few years later, water supply became intermittent again. Aqaba has always enjoyed continuous water supply thanks to abundant gravity-fed water supply from the fossil Disi aquifer in the Highlands above the coastal city.

Drinking Water Quality

Drinking water quality in Jordan is governed by Jordanian Standard 286 of 2008, which is based on the World Health Organization drinking water guidelines. Jordan’s standards were modified in 2008 and previously in 2001, after a major drinking water pollution outbreak occurred in Amman in the summer of 1998 due to a malfunction of the capital’s major drinking water treatment plant. In 2001, specific measures to be undertaken in case of the occurrence of pollution in drinking water samples were included in the procedures that are part of the standard. A 2005 study of different potable water sources in four governorates showed that drinking water quality was in compliance with national physiochemical standards. For the purpose of monitoring groundwater quality, a network of observation wells is installed in each of the “groundwater basins”. At the household level water is stored in water tanks (usually on top of the buildings) to be used until the next turn of water supply. In a 2011 study by the Jordanian Government, more than 90% of samples taken at house water storage tanks in three Amman distribution zones (Rasheed, Kharabsheh and Khalda) had chlorine residual levels between 0.2 mg/l and 0.5 mg/l. These values are in compliance with the recommendations of the WHO Drinking Water Guidelines. According to the WHO, the water can thus be classified as “safe to drink”. Despite these results, a 2012 Jordan Times article reported that “[a] customer satisfaction survey carried out by the Jordan Water Company (Miyahuna) showed that customers avoid drinking tap water, fearing it is contaminated”.

Wastewater Treatment

Jordan’s first wastewater treatment plant was established in 1968 in Ain Ghazal near Amman (the plant now serves as a pre-treatment plant for the As-Samra plant). The construction of other treatment plants started in the early 1980s. The total number of treatment plants was 28 as of 2013, treating about 324,000 m3 per day (118 million m3/year), or about 98% of the collected wastewater. By far the largest treatment plant is the As-Samra plant that treats the wastewater of Amman-Zarqa, accounting for about 80% of all wastewater treated. The plant initially used the stabilization pond technology but was rebuilt using the activated sludge technology in 2008 under a Build-Operate-Transfer contract signed in 2002. In June 2012 the government signed a contract for the expansion of the treatment plant to a capacity of 365,000 m3. Water is reused mainly for irrigation in the Jordan Valley, with some reuse for irrigation in the Highlands and limited industrial reuse in Aqaba.

Water Use and Environmental Awareness​

Given the high water scarcity in Jordan, the average per capita use is lower than in most other countries. Water production before network losses is about 120 liters per person and day while actual consumption is close to 80 liters per capita and day. A survey of water consumption habits by households in Eastern Amman and in 14 villages in the Northern Governorates showed that total consumption per capita lies between 60 and 80 liters per day. About 20-30% of this water is obtained from sources other than the public piped system, including from bottled water, water bought from tankers, rainwater harvesting and springs. In rural areas, 28% of households surveyed harvested rainwater and stored it in cisterns for drinking, since they considered it to be of better quality than piped water. In Eastern Amman, 12% of households bought water in large bottles and 30% bought water from private tankers. Most households have roof storage tanks with a volume of 1–2 m3. According to the 2009 Population and Family Health Survey, 31% of households use bottled water, 7% use rainwater, 2% tanker water and 60% tap water as their primary source of drinking water. According to the same survey, 22% of households filter tap water and the majority does not apply any type of treatment. A 2007–08 survey by the German-Jordanian water programme in the middle governorates Zarqa, Balqa and Madaba showed that 79% of households use tap water as their main source of drinking water and that 37% of households treat water before drinking it. Treated water bought in 5-gallon canisters and private water vendors that supply water in trucks are the main source of drinking water for 15% of households.

Water Balance​

Jordan is considered as one of the four most water scarce countries in the World. The limited water resources are exposed to pollution. Population growth is expected to increase the pressure on available water resources.

The National Water Strategy defines “water deficit” as “water demand” minus “water resources”. “Water demand” is not used in an economic sense where demand depends on price. Instead demand is defined as water needs derived from policy objectives. Thus the figure given in the strategy for water demand in agriculture – 1,080 million m3 (MCM)/year – is far greater than actual water use of about 600 MCM/year. In 2007, agriculture accounted for 72% of “water demand”, while the municipal share was 24% and the shares of tourism and industries were 3% and 1%, respectively. The water deficit of 565 million m3 (MCM)/year for 2007 thus is mainly caused by assumptions about “water needs” in agriculture.

The Strategy projects that municipal and industrial water needs will increase by 276 MCM/year from 2007 to 2022 (+ 29%), while agricultural water needs will stagnate. The Strategy envisages increasing water supply through three measures:

  • more use of reclaimed water in agriculture and industry (+ 156 MCM/year),
  • a net increase of fossil groundwater use (+ 59 MCM /year) through the Disi Water Conveyance Project completed in 2013, and
  • the desalination of seawater as part of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal (+ 500 MCM/year) to be completed in 2022.

These measures would provide more water than what is needed to cover the projected increase in municipal and industrial water demand. The remaining amount could be used to cover “water needs” in agriculture, to reduce groundwater overuse or to restore freshwater aquatic ecosystems.

Water Resources​

Jordan’s water resources include conventional as well as non-conventional resources, the latter e.g. comprising water reuse and desalination.

Conventional Water Resources

Conventional water resources in Jordan consist of groundwater and surface water. Countrywide, twelve groundwater basins have been identified. In terms of sustainability, their state can be described as critical since some of them are exploited to their maximum capacity, while most of them are overexploited, threatening their future use. The long term safe yield of renewable groundwater has been estimated at 275 million cubic metres/year.

The major surface water sources are the Jordan River, the Yarmouk River and the Zarqa River. Much of the flow of the Jordan River is diverted by Israel and much of the flow of the Yarmouk River by Syria, leaving only a small share to Jordan. The Zarqa River is severely polluted by industry, municipal wastewater and non-point sources. The King Talal Dam, Jordan’s largest surface water reservoir, faces low water levels and pollution. However, water quality in the King Talal reservoir has improved as a result of the construction of the new As-Samra wastewater treatment plant. The National Water Strategy estimates total renewable freshwater resources at 575 million cubic metres/year plus 90 million cubic metres/year of treated wastewater, totalling 665 million cubic metres/year.

Water Reuse

Water reuse is an increasingly important element in Jordan’s water balance. Reuse of treated wastewater (also called “reclaimed water”) occurs both indirectly, after discharge of the effluent to a river and mixing with freshwater, and directly, e.g. without mixing with freshwater.

Strategies and challenges. The increased use of reclaimed water is part of Jordan’s national water strategy. As part of it, a strategy for pricing and marketing reclaimed water has been established. Extension workers from the Ministry of Agriculture use a computer-based information system to advise farmers on how to optimize their fertigation in light of the irrigation water quality, location, crop, soil type and other factors. Despite these efforts, the majority of farmers in the Jordan Valley are not aware of the nutrient content of the reclaimed water, although experience from demonstration sites shows that using it, fertiliser expenditures can be reduced by 60%. One challenge for the reuse of wastewater is the fact that industries discharge untreated wastewater into the sewer system. However, this industrial wastewater contains heavy metals and other substances which the municipal wastewater treatment plants cannot remove.

Efficiency​

The share of non-revenue water (NRW) – water which is produced but not billed – was estimated at approx. 50% nationwide in 2014. This amounts to an estimated physical leakage of 76 billion litres per year, which could meet the needs of 2.6 million people (more than a third of the population). 

The main reasons leading to this high rate are leakage, by-passing of meters, illegal connections, unreliable water meters and problems concerning the reading of those meters. Leakages also affect water pressure and quality. Stolen water is used for irrigation or sold through water tankers, which reduces the amount available for official water supply and increases the price. Measures to decrease the rate of NRW can thus contribute to relieve the high pressure on water resources. The Government, in its National Water Strategy, aims at reducing non-revenue water to 25% by 2022, and technical losses to below 15%. The Strategy thus also includes strengthening the criminalization of water theft and illegal wells.

In Amman, the level of non-revenue water has been reduced from an estimated 46% in 2005 to an estimated 34% in 2010. However, during the same period the average hours of service per week declined from 66 to 36.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation called in a 2014 report on donors to prioritize their cooperation in tackling non-revenue water through small scale, effective interventions.

Impact of climate change on the water balance​

In 2009 a government report noted that “Jordan’s remarkable development achievements are under threat due to the crippling water scarcity, which is expected to be aggravated by climate change.” Rainfall is expected to decline significantly and evaporation and transpiration of plants will increase due to increased temperatures.

Jordan WASH Sector Facts and Figures