Multiple approaches to increase Jordan's water supply and meet growing demand

In June 2015 the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MoWI) launched the National Water Strategy (NWS) 2016-25, which aims to reduce costs and boost annual water supply by 550m cu metres through exploration, drilling and infrastructure investment. The Red Sea Dead Sea Conveyance (RSDS) project is one of the main projects under the plan; however, drilling activity in the Shidiyeh-Al Hasa deep aquifer is also a key part of the strategy and is expected to add 65m cu metres of deep aquifer water to supply.

Scarcity & Rising Demand

Jordan is classified as a semi-arid and arid country, with less than 200 mm of rainfall recorded annually across 92% of its area. It faces some of the world’s worst water scarcity challenges, and in its most recent annual report the MoWI found that only 275m cu metres of the kingdom’s 780m cu metres of renewable water resources could be extracted safely. A further 143m cu metres of non-renewable groundwater can be extracted annually; however, the kingdom’s total water demand was estimated at 1.4bn cu metres in 2015. Between 2011 and 2016, water supply per capita fell by 16% while the demand-supply shortfall rose by 21% annually.

Operational and maintenance costs for the Water Authority of Jordan and related water companies have also increased in recent years, from JD136m ($191.9m) in 2010 to JD245m ($345.6m) in 2015. Furthermore, the water cost per person for the 655,000 registered Syrian refugees living in camps was estimated at JD439 ($619) in 2015, further exacerbating demand pressure.

Digging Deep

In early 2018 the MoWI reported on the progress and implementation of NWS projects, announcing that feasibility studies and blueprints for the Shidiyeh-Al Hasa Water Conveyance System (SHWS) were completed and that work on the project had started. First launched in 2013, the SHWS will augment the water supply for central and northern Jordan through the extraction of water from deep wells, drilled between 1200 and 2000 metres under the surface in southern areas between Shidiyeh and Al Hasa, as well as Qatraneh in the Karak governorate south-west of Amman. This area is part of the ancient Disi aquifer, already drilled for the Disi Water Conveyance Project, which came on-line in 2013 and added 100m cu metres of annual supply.

The portions of supply from the Disi project that had previously been shipped to Amman, Qatraneh, Siwaqa, Lajjun, Hidan and Corridor are now being diverted to cover shortfalls in Irbid, Zarqa, Kerak and Madaba. As a result, it was estimated that northern and central Jordan would require an additional 50m cu metres of new annual water supply by 2018.

The SHWS project will extract high-temperature, corrosive, brackish water, which will be processed at a planned desalination facility. Offering a quick solution to near-term water challenges, the project’s development is divided into two phases. Construction on the $100m first phase has begun and will provide 20m cu metres of water supply on completion. The $250m second phase will be implemented under a build-operate-transfer public-private partnership, providing 50m cu metres of water annually.

Small-Scale Projects

The MoWI is also working on smaller-scale drilling projects, including new wells in Wadi Husban in the South, which are expected to add 10m cu metres of new supply by the end of 2018. The $125m Wadi Al Arab water project in northern Jordan also broke ground in December 2016, and authorities have announced it would add 45m cu metres of new supply upon completion in 2018.

Project work entails building a water intake in the King Abdullah Canal in the northern Jordan valley, a water treatment plant and a 28-km main carrier to transfer water to a 110,000-cu-metre reservoir in Irbid. The European Investment Bank has financed 50% of the project’s costs, with an additional 40% covered by a soft loan from the French government and 10% provided by a grant from the European Union.

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