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Water using conflicts in the Lower Jordan River Basin

Optimal water allocation with a special reference to the agricultural sector

Diplomarbeit 2007 134 Seiten

Geowissenschaften / Geographie - Phys. Geogr., Geomorphologie, Umweltforschung



List of tables and figures

Table of equivalents

List of abbreviations

1. Introduction
1.1. Failed water allocation in the Jordan River Basin
1.2. Methodology
1.3. Structure of the study

2. Baseline assessment of the Lower Jordan River Basin
2.1. Physical conditions
2.1.1. Geographic location
2.1.2. Topography
2.1.3. Climatic setting
2.1.4. Geology
2.2. Socio-economic characteristics
2.2.1. Demography
2.2.2. Land tenure
2.2.3. Land use Agriculture Industry Services
2.3. Water Resources
2.3.1. Water supply Groundwater Surface water Non-conventional water resources
2.3.2. Water demand Irrigated agriculture Municipal demand Industrial demand
2.4. Water policy and institutional framework
2.4.1. Institutional framework
2.4.2. Water administration and water utilities in Jordan
2.4.3. Policy framework and water sector strategies
2.4.4. Legal framework The Helsinki Rules The ILC Rules Bilateral water treaties

3. General aspects of the water crises in Jordan
3.1. Historical and political perspectives
3.1.1. The pre-exploitation phase since the 1950s
3.1.2. The exploitation phase in the mid-1970s
3.1.3. The conservation phase
3.1.4. Reorientation of Water Policies in the late 1990s
3.2. On the economics of water usage in Jordan
3.2.1. Productivity and profitability of irrigated agriculture
3.2.2. Water pricing in Jordan
3.2.3. Socio-economic impacts of a reduction of irrigated agriculture
3.3. The approach of Integrated Water Resources Management
3.3.1. The Dublin Principles
3.3.2. IWRM at river basin level

4. Different approaches to assure future water supplies
4.1. Supply management
4.1.1. Augmentation of irrigation water resources Urban wastewater re-use Brackish water desalination
4.1.2. Seawater desalination
4.1.3. Water Imports Importation of water by sea Importation of water by land
4.1.4. Virtual Water
4.1.5. Improved management of supplies
4.2. Demand management
4.2.1. Improve (water use) efficiency
4.2.2. Regulatory measures
4.2.3. Water pricing
4.2.4. Legislation and institutional issues
4.3. Towards a sustainable agriculture
4.3.1. Economic instruments to reduce agricultural consumption
4.3.2. Improving irrigation efficiency
4.3.3. On farm management: information and education
4.3.4. Institutional arrangements towards an integrated policy

5. Conclusion


List of tables and figures

Figure 1: General Map of the Jordan River Basin

Figure 2: Exact geographic location of the Lower Jordan River Basin

Figure 3: Index map showing the physiographic-geologic provinces of Jordan

Figure 4: Topography of the Lower Jordan River Basin

Figure 5: Agro-climatic zones in Jordan and representative meteorological stations

Figure 6: Spatial Distribution of Mean Annual Rainfall (1963-2002)

Figure 7: Jordanian soil types

Figure 8: Map of the governorates of Jordan

Figure 9: Population projections for Jordan 1998 – 2020

Figure 10: Size of holdings before and after the land reform in the Jordan Valley

Figure 11: Mean annual rainfall in Jordan

Figure 12: Hydrology of the Lower Jordan River Basin

Figure 13: Surface and Groundwater Basins in Jordan

Figure 14: Groundwater basins in the Jordan River Basin

Figure 15: Total water demand in 1998 and future projections (in MCM/year)

Figure 16: Industrial water consumption between 1989 and 2001 (in MCM/year)

Figure 17: Water resources in the LJRB around 1950

Figure 18: Comparison of cropping patterns in 1973 and 1999

Figure 19: Evolution of the drilling activity in Northern Jordan since the 1950s

Figure 20: Wastewater treatment plants in Jordan in 2002

Figure 21: Planning for Integrated Water Resources Management

Figure 22: Desalination plants for irrigation purposes in the Jordan Valley

Figure 23: Schematic map of desalination sub-options (Red-Dead and Med-Dead Pro-

Figure 24: Effects of improvements in irrigation methods on agricultural demand in

Table 1: Main economic indicators for Jordan 1999 - 2006

Table 2: Fastest growing sectors in the 1st quarter of 2006

Table 3: Estimated Population by Governorate and Sex, 2005 (in 1000)

Table 4: Production of main crops and annual yield (2002)

Table 5: Resource availability in Jordan for the years 2005 - 2020

Table 6: Annual budget of renewable groundwater

Table 7: Annual flood- and base flows in MCM/year

Table 8: Quantities of reused treated wastewater (2002)

Table 9: Water allocation to the riparians of the Jordan River system according to the

Table 10: Water productivity in different economic sectors

Table 11: Major areas of treated effluent use in Jordan

Table 12: Cost estimation for water imports by sea

Table 13: Virtual water importation to Jordan through crop net-imports

Table 14: Virtual water importation to Jordan through livestock net-imports

Table 15: Current and proposed irrigation tariff structure

Table 16: Sample irrigation bills for current and proposed tariffs

Table 17: Entities concerned with water and the environment in Jordan

Table of equivalents

1000 Fils = 1 Jordanian Dinar (JD)

1 JD = 1,41 US-Dollar (USD)

1million m3 = MCM

1 dunam = 1,000 m2

1 ka = unit of time, equal to 1000 years

List of abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1. Introduction

1.1. Failed water allocation in the Jordan River Basin

“Every human being, now and in the future, should have enough clean water, appropriate sanitation and enough food and energy at reasonable cost. Providing adequate water to meet these basic needs must be done in a manner that works in harmony with nature.”

World Water Commission (GWP 2000)

This is the global challenge the World Water Forum in The Hague expressed in 2000. Water will be one of the central issues of the 21st century, as shown already in the past with droughts and evolving conflicts over Middle East waters. This region is among the most arid regions in the world and water resources are very sparse.

In the Arabian Peninsula, deep non-renewable aquifers supply more than 80% of total freshwater use. Now, these aquifers are at risk, as volumes withdrawn far exceed natural recharge resulting in a continuous decline in groundwater levels and quality deterioration due to seawater intrusion. This paper will focus on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, one of the most arid countries of the world, with only 160 m3 of freshwater resources available per capita per year. This is not enough for an expanding country with a vital economy and growing population keeping in mind that the country’s demand already exceeds the safe yield approximately by 180%, which is not sustainable (NWMP 2004, ch. 3.1).

Already in the early 1990s over-use of all accessible renewable resources and over-abstraction of groundwater aquifers was noted. The non-renewable resources are predicted to be exhausted by the year 2020. A serious change in demand management, water resources development, and allocation is necessary to meet Jordan’s future needs, especially in the agricultural sector, which will be the main focus of this paper. To secure water supply for future generations and to achieve the highest possible welfare, water use has to be sustainable[1] and efficient.

The Lower Jordan River Basin (LJRB), defined as a hydrological entity, is of major importance for the kingdom, since this area includes 83% of Jordan’s total population, 80% of irrigated agriculture, and receives 80% of the national water resources (Courcier et al. 2005, p. v). The existing water scarcity is likely to intensify in the future. Global climate projections are predicting decreasing precipitation, while temperatures will increase (Hoff 2005, p. 25). At the same time, Jordan will experience a rapid population growth (growth rates are among the highest worldwide with 2.8% in 2003; Dos 2006), and expected growth rates are likely to exacerbate the problems. According to World Bank forecasts, the government will be unable to generate the financial and human resources needed to provide adequate water and sanitation facilities to meet the future demand (Allan 2002; Pitman 2004).

In Jordan limited freshwater resources are used in the domestic and tourist sector, industry, and in agriculture. Although irrigated agriculture contributes less than 5 % of Jordan’s gross national product, it consumes about 70% of the water. The total renewable yield is limited and might be sufficient for domestic and other municipal water demand, as well as for the demand of light industries (Dombrowsky 1998, in: Scheumann/Schiffler 1998, p. 93). However, it is certainly not enough for food self-sufficiency in local food production by irrigated agriculture, which has been estimated at 1,000 m3 per capita per year under semi-arid conditions (Allan 1996, p. 122). The issue of water allocation to the agricultural sector is controversial – given its low position in national economies, particularly in the case of Jordan, only very limited food security is attainable (Beschorner 1992, p. 66).

Apart from rapid population growth and economic development, another stressing factor is the generally deteriorating water quality in the LJRB. Therefore, in addition to the transboundary character and the limited total availability of the water resources, the geographic conditions require more sophisticated and energy-intensive water resource management (Dombrowsky 1998, p. 93). The problems facing water management in Jordan are well-known and may be summarized as follows: institutional competition, heavy municipal network losses, irrigation network losses, inadequate storage facilities, industrial pollution, and a weak water pricing policy with low tariffs (Beschorner 1992, p. 16-17). Furthermore, the water institutions are facing serious financial problems (the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) has been a loss making entity since inception and it receives annual transfers from the government exceeding 1% of GDP). All these problems can only be addressed gradually because of socio-economic difficulties. Although Jordanian water planners are aware of the need to educate the population in water conservation, the issue of water pricing is controversial. Especially in the agricultural sector substantial water subsidies and import tariffs or quotas (for example on bananas) have been used as a production incentive since the 1950s to support irrigated farming and rural development. This support program now contributes to difficulties in water allocation, as national water allocation priorities have shifted. As freshwater is re-allocated for municipal use, water costs in agriculture may become more expensive; thus farmers may oppose water re-allocation, as economic growth has strengthened politically powerful groups (i.e. fruit tree farmers). While the costs for supporting irrigation are mounting, these stakeholders want irrigation support to continue (Nachbaur 2004, p. 5).

Besides inter-sectoral allocation problems, further potential for conflict lies in the unequal distribution of water resources; not only between the riparian states, but also between different population groups within the Jordanian society. The resulting water-using conflicts are strongly related to the political and economic situation in the Middle East, and all proposed solutions also comprise of political elements. These water-related issues “do not necessarily add up to a major threat to regional security but do present a challenge to policy-makers and are a source of tension“, as Beschorner points out (Beschorner 1992, p. 65).

However, the future structure of Jordanian economy may be strongly influenced by water scarcity, especially regarding the importance of agriculture in relation to other sectors (Mohsen 2007, p. 28). Already today the major sources of income, foreign exchange and employment are services and industry, while many Jordanians still consider their country as mainly agricultural. Yet, according to economic theory, any scarce good should first be allocated to those activities, which generate the highest marginal return. This paper will look at different criteria for optimal water allocation, such as intersectoral allocation, water productivity, and other economic incentives for water management.

Increasing demand for high quality water puts considerable strain on agriculture as the biggest consumer of water, and enforces this sector to adapt to reduced volumes and lower quality water. The adaptive capability of the agricultural sector to these new circumstances will be analyzed in this paper and the central aim is to find an answer to the question whether the intersectoral water using conflicts in the LJRB can be solved by an integrated management approach and how the agricultural sector can respond to the new requests of Jordan’s water crises. Despite this study focuses on the agricultural sector as a crucial field of action, it has to be born in mind that water has to be managed in an integrated manner.

1.2. Methodology

The approaches of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) are the conceptual framework for this paper. With regard to the extremely stressed water situation, water use in the LJRB has to be sustainable, equitable, and efficient in means of (fresh-)water management. The principles of IWRM can help to find sustainable solutions for the water sector. Equitable and sustainable water management calls for an interdisciplinary approach, applying technical, economic, socio-economic, and political measures adapting to the regional prerequisites (Hoff 2005, p. 24-25). Numerous responses have been put forward to meet the ever-increasing demand for water. In the case of Jordan, this paper will focus on overcoming the reduced availability in water quantity and quality that results from human and development impacts. Because water supply has not kept pace with consumption, current water policy in Jordan emphasizes the economic aspects of water demand. A key element in the country’s current policy is a move toward water demand management. Analysis of economic sectors, the uses of water, and economic efficiency are only a few aspects that have been considered by Jordanian water planners.

Long-standing water conservation traditions are being maintained or supplemented with demand-management practices. To meet increased demands, practitioners of IWRM are augmenting the limited natural water supply with desalination, water reuse, enhanced groundwater recharge and inter-basin transfers (Wwap 2006, p. 146). The second National Water Master Plan (NWMP) for Jordan published in 2004 draws attention to all these different approaches and recognizes that increasing demands are running ahead of water resources developments. These challenges require gaining efficiencies throughout the water sector, namely in institutional development, in water resources development, and demand management as well as in water allocation with due respect to private sector participation. Hence Jordan's water sector development shall follow the principals of IWRM to secure the needs of future generations (Nwmp 2004, ch. 2.4.4). However, demand management has only been partially implemented, mainly for socio-political reasons (Courcier et al. 2005, p. vi). Besides water saving measures, the NWMP contains the possibility of optimizing water allocation and is aiming towards a sustainable water management by the year 2020.

Rapid growth in demand has increased the pressure on agricultural use of water significantly, and farmers have to continue to adapt to reduced volumes and lower quality water. While the agricultural sector has already begun to respond to the changed prerequisites by improving irrigation efficiency and increasing the use of recycled water, the total demand for water still exceeds renewable supplies by far (Scott 2003, p. 209) and irrigation systems also pose environmental problems. Agricultural runoff is the major non-point source of pollutants, including sediment, phosphorous, nitrogen, and pesticides. Per-hectare use of pesticides and fertilizers in Jordan rates among the highest in the world, and runoff is correspondingly high. Washing out the salts with freshwater can alleviate local problems, but this would allow salts to drain into watercourses or aquifers, with potential long-term problems.

As shown above, the origin of water stress stems from three interacting crises:

- Demand for freshwater exceeds the naturally occurring, renewable supply.
- Much of the limited water is being polluted by (among others: agricultural) wastes.
- The same water is desired simultaneously by different sectors or co-riparians.


[1] As anticipated in the “Rio Declaration on environment and development”, to achieve sustainable development, a country should “reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies” (UNCED 1992). There are different concepts (weak and strong sustainability), which both have the same starting point; the question of the extent to which existing commodities are substitutes for each other. A consensus exists about basic assumptions on sustainable development, although they differ in means of the importance of the individual capital goods. The weak sustainability concept also “implies barriers to the consumption of non-renewable resources, since the profits obtained from the sales of resources (…) have to be invested in reproducible capital to keep the capital basis constant over time”. In this view, water can be envisaged as a basic capital good. (Hake/Schlör 2005, p. 4-5).


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Institution / Hochschule
Universität Passau
Water Lower Jordan River Basin



Titel: Water using conflicts in the Lower Jordan River Basin