Current and Future Challenges of Water Resources Management in Jordan

T. M. Abu-Sharar


Over millenia, people of Jordan have been adapted to prevailing water scarcity and occasional recurrence of prolong drought. The people developed their own traditional methods of soil conservation and management of limited water resources such as contour cultivation, land ripping and land terracing. They also developed their innovative techniques of water harvesting and flood water storage in soil profile, especially in case of Nabatean traditions in Southern Jordan. The water harvesting techniques comprised detention, dispersion and diversion structures. Such traditional methods proved to be effective in balancing food demand-supply equation until 1940’s when tremendous exodus of Palestinian Arabs took place from Palestine into Jordan. Massive migration of refugees to Jordan had placed sudden increase in demand for water and food in a country known to be very poor in such commodities. In addition, the country had to receive two more waves of refugees; first in 1967 after fall of the West Bank to Israeli occupation and second as Jordanian expatriates who fled Gulf States that followed Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Sudden increase in population was about 10%in 1991. Such massive influxes of the people that was joined with currently high population annual growth rate of 2.5% caused continuous drop in per capita share of water resources. It reached current annual figure of 160 m3. Subsequently, Jordan had to cope with these challenges by developing new water resources. They included exhaustive pumping of ground water, desalination of brackish water, reuse of reclaimed wastewater in productive agriculture and detention of any feasible amount of fresh runoff water behind dams that are mainly overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley. Although previous water challenge was volumetric in nature, recent assessment of supply-demand formula for fresh water indicates growing interest in new dimension of quality in nature. This paper analyzes causes and nature of problems associated with management of the limited water resources. It provides suggestions for proper crop assignment from the water resources like assessing water value on the basis of net economic return from unit of irrigation water. It also proposes alternatives for developing new water resources.


Soil, water quality, water scarcity, water resources development, water economics, virtual water

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