Jordan's Shadow State and Water Management: Prospects for Water Security Will Depend on Politics and Regional Cooperation

Valerie Yorke

Abstract Over two decades, many have regarded the idea of a Red Sea–Dead Sea (RSDS) Conveyance Project to save the Dead Sea as a golden opportunity for Jordan. It held promise of providing the Kingdom with desalinated water to meet its long-term needs. Now, with the project's potential abandonment, Jordan needs to consolidate and accelerate reforms to close its deficits and improve water sector sustainability until a long-term bulk solution is found. Addressing how these challenges might be dealt with, this chapter focuses on politics. Analysis of Jordan's water reforms over 20 years shows that the sector's limited ability to achieve its goals is rooted in a wider problem – the Kingdom's organisation of political power. The chapter explores how an evolving “political compact” between Throne and people, underpinned by patronage, permitted an increasingly powerful neopatrimonial, anti-reformist elite – a resilient “shadow state” – to influence policies and control the economy including in due course water resources. The water problem cannot therefore be remedied only through improved water management. Taking account of the link between political dynamics and governance, the chapter sets criteria for implementing reforms that, if met, would gradually free policymaking and institutions from shadow-state influence, providing context for effective water solutions. A final section, addressing the need for a nationwide coordinated approach to comprehensive water reforms that could provide a path to water security, discusses how Jordan might accelerate policies underway, implement deeper reforms and pursue further options – locally and regionally – to address mediumand long-term challenges.

Keywords Jordan water scarcity • Water governance shortcomings • Politics of water • Shadow state networks • National and regional solutions • Cooperation • Water security • Water demand • Water supply • RSDS Conveyance Project

Defining the Problem

Jordan faces a deepening water crisis, aggravated over decades by climatechange impacts, regional conflict, inflows of migrants and poor governance. Its people are among the most water-deprived worldwide, with 145 m3/year per person (2008) (MWI 2009, p. 3–1), a level projected to fall as the gap between demand for water and renewable and financed non-renewable supplies widens. Few in-country options remain to develop new water. Meanwhile, with more than 80 % of available annual supply of up to 900 × 106 m3 depending on unsustainable abstraction from groundwater aquifers and on diminishing transboundary surface flows, Jordanians could face absolute water poverty by 2025, with only 90 m3 per person (USAID 2012, p. vii). MWI statistics for 1994–2010 (Fig. 15.1) also reveal continuing structural distortions in water use: agriculture remained the dominant consumer (66 %), whilst contributing only 3.5 % of GDP (MWI and WRG 2011, p. 23); the municipal sector modestly increased its share (30 %) and industry/tourism use remained low (4.5–7 %). Behind these data lie dangerous trends, namely continuing overpumping of groundwater aquifers; continuing inefficient water use in terms of productivity and diminishing scope to cope with climate-change impacts.

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