National and Regional Solutions

Table of Contents:

On this paper's analysis and evidence only a political transition based on a restructured partnership between Throne and people will pave the way to the institutional, legal and economic reforms needed for Jordan to sequence implementation of effective water solutions. Meanwhile, Jordan needs as a matter of priority to support on-going ministry efforts to transform its water sector. “Business-as-usual” is not an option. Water management shortcomings render unachievable both the narrowing of water deficits and laying foundation for a sustainable water-secure future. Reforms need to move further and faster than planned. Ideally, they would be facilitated by timely pursuit of policies to meet the above criteria, which would start to free institutions from patronage politics and empower them. But they cannot wait.

How might this transformation be brought about? In view of the governance shortcomings identified earlier, focus on an integrated cross-sectoral approach incorporating domestic and regional options, which in different combinations could assist Jordan to meet its water challenge in the absence of a large-scale RSDS Conveyance Project offers the best way forward (Yorke 2009, 2013, pp. 94–132). Priorities for immediate implementation – some already embarked upon by the government – are identified below that would meet the criteria earlier set out and assist Jordan through small steps to narrow its shortand medium-term deficits; to protect its aquifers; to extend the period before a bulk solution is required and to identify long-term options for that supply. It is suggested these solutions be pursued in parallel, planned by national decision-makers in consultation with the public, coordinated inter-ministerially, and implemented with an agreed time-line. Transforming the Water Sector

A necessary start point for the new approach would be the formal adoption of integrated planning across government and sectors. This would provide means to ensure that strategically important but scarce water is prioritised, its true cost accounted for and its management aligned with cross-sector implementation of the policies chosen to fulfil growth objectives. The resulting plan, with time-line and benchmarks, would provide frame for the required “step change” in water management.

A switch to integrated planning, reportedly underway, will be technically challenging. Decision-makers will face difficult choices given the food and energy needs of an expanding population, the need to attain higher growth levels and climate change impacts on water availability. It is suggested therefore that as part of the political transition, the king, prime minister and cabinet formally mandate this switch, thereby providing for prioritisation of water in investment decisions and optimisation of its use for future water security. This “game-changing” move would signal to “shadow state” members that new rules of the game will henceforth apply to water allocation and counter public scepticism on government intentions. At the same time, the national dialogue underway would provide opportunity for stakeholders to identify and agree “win-win” solutions that take availability, costs and the needs of the poor into account. These could be fed into planning. Donors could be expected to collaborate with the government to develop institutional capacity to roll out the plan. They could fund, if Jordan wishes: analysis of the true value of water, support for compilation of comprehensive data in a single centralised source, consultancy on options for restructured tariffs targeting subsidies more fairly and for trade policy adjustments on lifting import tariffs on water-thirsty crops (Yorke 2013, pp. 96–97). Power realities in the kingdom will change only slowly, however. The following discussion with proposals for domestic and regional solutions therefore identifies how these might be facilitated by the wider political transition, sequenced over time to neutralise resistance of opponents and maximise stakeholder cooperation, and be supported by regional and international players. Exploiting Scope for Indispensable Demand and Supply-Side Efficiency Measures

Officials and donors recognise that opportunities exist to improve efficiency on both demand and supply sides. Some would be politically difficult to exploit, but all could potentially find sufficient support to drive them through and are technically and economically feasible. As a package they could bring short to long-term benefits – conserving low-cost supplies, protecting aquifers, enhancing adaptive capacity to climate change, raising additional revenue and making additional water available at lower cost than development of new sources:

Non-Revenue Water Reduction

A well-recognised opportunity lies in addressing inefficient supply in the municipalities and improving performance to standards that would reduce NRW at the Miyahuna and YWC networks. Politically, the government is committed to NRW reduction and Jordanians understand that failure to address the public health problem of leakages could result in political unrest. In addition leakage reductions and pressure controls at supply networks would reportedly be one of the most costeffective measures to increase water supply and raise revenue (MWI 2009; MWI and WRG 2011). Failure to improve the Amman network (Miyahuna) would raise the cost of Disi water from JD 0.85/m3 to around JD 1.75/m3. Technically, leakage reduction would be a low cost-high volume move (Salameh 2007, p. 9). Technical leakages account for around 50 % of water supplies lost to NRW, but experts say network rehabilitation and improved management could reduce these losses by 50 %. On this basis, starting at Miyahuna and YWC, an annual saving of 19.5 × 106 m3 (based on current production) could be achieved (USAID 2012, p. 32). A countrywide program would require further analysis, but water volumes of around 40 × 106 m3 annually could potentially be saved by 2025, a significant contribution to projected requirements. Theft should be tackled in parallel, with the WAJ coordinating closely with the police on law enforcement, and a public education program launched.

The USAID is likely to support NRW projects, but the high cost of infrastructure makes essential a new US-Jordan understanding on USAID cash transfers to infrastructure projects and their ties to the fulfilment of conditions precedent.[1] Inter alia, conditions would need to cover government moves to rein in theft and shut illegal wells, the extension of PSP to more utilities with tighter performance-based management contracts and tariff restructuring.

Cross-sector Highlands Water Strategy

A second opportunity lies in rethinking agriculture in the Highlands, where use of strategically important, low-cost groundwater is controversial. High-volume water use and low productivity point to scope for increasing agriculture's efficiency and contribution to national wealth, for conserving renewable low-cost supplies through sustainable use and for arresting aquifer depletion[2] whilst enhancing adaptive capacity.[3] Jordan's political transition and the increased public and parliamentary scrutiny it will bring has put leaders on notice to pursue policies serving the national interest rather than their own vested interests, providing political space for the Prime Ministry and governing institutions to intervene with the required approach to Highlands groundwater management.

Driven by national leaders, this would need to maximise the use of available legal, financial, technical and administrative levers to ensure groundwater is used efficiently and sustainably. It would build on the 2002 By-Law No 85 and would need to involve stakeholders – as did the Highland Water Forum initiative – in its design and implementation and to secure donor funding. A “carrot and stick” approach to win the cooperation of landowners and farmers, or cajole them, to change behavior[4] and to assist the poor to adjust might include:

Enlisting tribal interlocutors to explain the situation and solutions to water users in a culturally sensitive manner. Shadow state members, identifying with the national interest to reduce over-abstraction, would make excellent “political champions” in a collective effort to optimise water use and productivity, according to one interviewee. Measures to improve on-farm efficiency, raise government revenue and avoid social hardship might include:

Incentives to encourage farmers voluntarily to change crops and production methods or to cease farming in order to reduce groundwater use. Consensus has grown among political elites and landowners on the need for suitable crop patterns. But crop transition will be long term, requiring steps to provide “win-win” outcomes for wealthy and poor farmers and workers. Interventions to ease the transition require study but might include: (a) subsidies, loans and debt forgiveness (Denny et al 2008, p. 11) where farms are profitable and farmers plan behaviour shifts to reduce groundwater use and to generate increased productivity; (b) retirement packages and alternative income opportunities for those unable to farm at profit. Compensation could be offered in return for well closures. Agribusiness development, eco-tourism, wind and solar projects and expanded rain-fed agriculture could provide reassurance for those who risk losing jobs and opportunity for landowners to diversify investments.

Parallel inducements to encourage farmers to reduce groundwater abstraction will be essential: (a) phased increases in extraction charges to encourage farmers to shift to higher value, water-efficient-crops or to move to alternative employment and to raise revenue; (b) removal of quantitative restrictions and customs duties on imported water-intensive crops to encourage farmers to grow highervalue, less-thirsty crops to enjoy comparative advantage; (c) accelerated enforcement of the 2002 By-Law No 85 (calling for closure of an estimated 1,000 illegal wells and restrictions on extraction from 2,799 licensed wells).

USAID financial support. Although USAID projects have not focused on agriculture, this is changing following the highly critical 2011 USAID Audit. USAID could financially facilitate cross-sector studies on crop diversification and the above incentives, but make inducements subject to tightened conditions precedent for cash transfers.

Wastewater Reuse

Third is the opportunity to increase significantly the levels of treated wastewater for industry and agriculture in order to reduce demand for groundwater in the medium to long term. The option appears feasible: USAID consultants recommend that the agency fund over 5 years the building of medium-sized wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) (USAID 2012, p. xvi). The option is politically attractive on account of its environmental and public health benefits and is technically feasible.

Expanding wastewater treatment is likely to be key to reducing highlands groundwater use and to long-term plans to release surface water (used in irrigation) for municipal use. Research is required on what volumes of treated wastewater might realistically be produced. This article's projections foresee around 60 × 106 m3/ year of additional treated wastewater production by 2020 and 85 × 106 m3/year by 2025[5] – a significant contribution to closing projected deficits. Pursuing Affordable Regional Desalination

Jordan has long recognised that water solutions cannot be exclusively national. This is because even when improvements in demand and supply efficiency and the remaining feasible new water options (wastewater re-use and brackish water desalination) are taken into account, significant additional supplies will be required to narrow remaining deficits – whether from desalination, regional conveyance or transboundary solutions; and if these projects are to succeed, they will require international involvement – funding, provision of data, legal frameworks and guarantees. Meanwhile the global financial crisis, climate change, Arab uprisings and conflict in Syria and Iraq have transformed the political landscape, pushing Jordan's allies to reshape Middle East policies in which quid pro quos in exchange for the political and material support they extend will play a part. In short, past circumstances underpinning Jordan's rentier state are falling away and unilateral “business-as-usual” water policies based on it no longer hold. National leaders recognise the need radically to rethink how they address bulk-water supply and regional cooperation, if Jordan is to find a path to a water-secure future.

The government's preferred option has been desalination on its own coast. In December 2012, in a changed approach reflecting national interest, it refocused on the long-studied RSDS Conveyance Project, having decided to “scale down” its ambitious but unaffordable Jordan Red Sea Project (JRSP) in favour of a 70 × 106 m3/year desalination plant near Aqaba (Namrouqa 2012). The plant, which experts say is technically feasible if built north of the airport, will be designed to meet requirements for growth in the south over the medium term and – as agreed in December 2013 with Israel and the PA – transboundary demand in Israel and Palestine (see below). With its regional cooperative aspects, funding is likely to be forthcoming. However, discharge of the brine is problematic: Environmentalists argue against piping brine to the Dead Sea. On the other hand, any plan to discharge brine in the Gulf of Aqaba would need a positive environmental assessment and a mandate from riparian states.[6] The alternative of distributing brine in the desert requires study.

Jordan hoped the new plant would serve as the first phase of the mega-RSDS Conveyance Project. This latter project by virtue of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian participation, would likely have attracted international funding, permitting Jordan to sell a proportion of the more than 370 × 106 m3/year of water earmarked for it at prices affordable to Jordanians. Moreover, though not publicly discussed by decision-makers, it could have secured these outcomes without the government having to implement politically difficult water and economic reforms that alternative solutions would require. The recent World Bank-funded RSDS feasibility study raised questions over the project's technical feasibility, however, and environmentalist opposition now points to its potential abandonment. Jordan is thus in need of a Plan B for its long-term bulk supply, which has led some to resuscitate the politically difficult option of conveyance of desalinated water from the Mediterranean coast. But there are regional alternatives to this, as discussed below. Intensifying Regional Diplomacy to Manage Shared Resources

Jordan's water policy for decades has reflected asymmetry of power with its neighbours and its downstream riparian status. Lacking leverage to enforce its rights over shared surface waters, it has preferred unilateral options to secure new supply. However, in view of the scale of the water crisis, Jordan has strong interest in reaping the benefits of regional cooperation, for it will be a pre-requisite for the success of its mix of short-, mediumand long-term water solutions. A multi-pronged approach is required to facilitate regional and transboundary cooperation in order to mitigate dangers to shared waters and to develop new resources. Albeit less powerful than its neighbours, Jordan may not be maximising what leverage it has. Smart diplomacy could lead to beneficial trade-offs over water, food and energy. Besides, insufficient attention to bilateral differences might permit these to fuel broader tensions.

Since it is in the region that mediumand long-term water security will be found, now is the time for Jordan to raise the profile of water in diplomacy and harness support for indispensable regional efforts to manage resources sustainably – within and inter-basin. Identified below are four areas for cooperation which would serve the interests of Jordan and its neighbours. Requiring national and regional action, they cover demand and supply aspects and could be effective in the short to long term. All are in the public domain and given the right political dynamics would be feasible.

Laying Foundations for a Regional Water Authority

The promotion of the idea of a Council for Water Resources in the Middle East made up of heads of government represents a start (SFG 2011, p. 20). The Council's purpose would be to support five countries – Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Syria – to prepare for decisions around water through reaching consensus on principles of cooperation, developing guidelines for standardising measurements, interpreting and exchanging data, on measures to combat climate change and setting targets for sustainable water management. In pursuit of these goals, the new High Level Group chaired by HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal[7] provides a platform for fresh thinking on interdependencies; and it can drive regional interactions until leaders agree to raise these to institutional level – in the form of a Regional Water Authority. Such collaboration would likely generate momentum behind the strategies discussed next, which if successful, would positively influence Jordan's water outcomes.

Pursuing Transboundary Cooperation to Close the Medium-Term Deficit

Jordan will need to maintain the quantities of transboundary water it receives, ensure it receives its rightful shares and find ways to increase them. This provides incentive for improving cooperation with Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Present uneasy relations prevent cross-border supervision, the minimum required for successful water sharing. Moreover, current allocation accords[8] are fragile – complicated by mutual distrust and vulnerable to climate-change impacts. Regional politics are in flux, so it will be important for Jordan to maximise opportunities for diplomacy and cooperation over shared water – with regard to technology, water data or wider energy, trade and transit deals which would likely win international support.

It is too early to know Syria's political future, but its people will need to rebuild their country, a process from which Jordan could benefit when it renews relations. At that stage it will have strong incentive to prioritise water and press for a new accord that irons out differences over Yarmouk resources and provides for water sharing and joint cooperation over maintenance of water quality and pollution prevention. Experts suggest Jordan could push for a larger share than originally agreed – say 100 × 106 m3/year.

Twenty years after the 1994 Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty commitment to augment water supplies to Jordan by 50 × 106 m3/year, a formula has been found. Under the recent Jordan-Israel-PA accord, Jordan will sell Israel up to 50 × 106 m3/year from the proposed Aqaba desalination plant in exchange for Israel's sale to Jordan of an additional 50 × 106 m3/year to be released from Lake Tiberias in the north to supply Amman. The likelihood of access to international funding will reduce the costs to Jordan. The arrangement, which will contribute directly or through exchange up to 70 × 106 m3/year to Jordan's medium-term deficit, is an encouraging precedent for further joint projects.

One such would be a Jordan-Israel-PA application to UNESCO for World Heritage Site recognition for the Jordan River/Dead Sea – an idea already considered in Amman. An application, if it is to succeed, would need to specify what responsibilities the participants would assume for joint management of the shared water course flowing to the Dead Sea and agreeing plans for the sustainable use of waters allocated.[9] A successful application could provide unimaginable “win-win” outcomes for riparians, including mechanisms to cooperate over rather than compete for precious river water, to protect the environment and to access political and financial support for projects to protect the Dead Sea and Jordan River. This degree of cooperation could encourage international parties to consider how they might support regional water supply projects for Jordan (and Palestine) through bulk conveyance, which are considered next.

Supporting Studies on Inward Transfer of Turkish Water

With Jordan's long-term need for bulk water, exploring the potential for the import of Turkish water (Gruen 2007; Wachtel and Liel 2009; IPCRI 2010; Yorke 2013, pp. 127–131) has become a priority as prospects for the mega RSDS Conveyance Project wane. Turkey would like to export water to the extent it has capacity (SFG 2011, pp. 39–41) and has historically favoured Middle East destinations for political reasons. The SFG's initiative to build cooperation around water between Turkey and the Arab states is therefore crucially important. Diplomacy and studies could keep open the option of water transfer to Jordan and its neighbours in the face of competing purchase offers from Mediterranean countries and lead to related deals on the transport of gas, oil and electricity to underpin growth. Given the potential contribution of Turkish water to Jordan's ability to meet longand even medium-term needs, studies of the options deserve technical and financial support:

Transfers from Manavgat River: Most promising would be Jordan's purchase of water conveyed from Turkey's Manavgat facility by tanker or floating bag. Imports of up to 400 × 106 m3/year would be significant and could be negotiated as part of a set of bilateral accords with Turkey or as a regional package involving Israel, or as a straightforward purchase of potable water for the medium term, pending a long-term solution. Conveyance by tanker is considered technically more reliable than by bag.[10]

Transfers from the Seyhan and Ceyhan Rivers: Turkey's past interest in the idea of a pipeline to Syria and Jordan (Gruen 2007; Rende 2007; Wachtel and Liel 2009) has receded since development around the rivers has dented export capacity. Still, an estimated 1,000–1,500 × 106 m3 would be available to 2020, though flows would be intermittent. A modified pipeline in the context of a possible future Marshall-type plan for Syria's reconstruction with international guarantees and a legal framework might therefore appeal to all parties as well as attract the needed funding. The plan's self-sufficiency in terms of energy to convey the water would be an added plus. Scientific analysis to identify the scale of Turkey's future export capacity would be required as well as commitments by participating countries on joint monitoring and management.

• A third option would be an undersea network of pipelines through the Mediterranean to carry water, gas, oil and fibre optics (Personal interviews 2010;

(IPCRI 2010). Though politically easier to implement and less costly than other bulk water projects, the option is not technically feasible due to the Mediterranean's depth. Studies on how to overcome this difficulty and cost comparison with conveyance by transport or bag from the Manavgat are proposed.

  • [1] Echoing views expressed to the author in 2010, the (USAID 2011) found USAID/Jordan had not developed conditions precedent to ensure sustainability of its program activities since 2010. Criticism focused on the failure to address agricultural water use.
  • [2] According to a U.S. Geological Survey report cited in (USAID 2012, p. 7), groundwater abstraction levels have declined over recent years. But they still exceed safe-yield.
  • [3] Highlands irrigated agriculture is three times less productive than in the Jordan Valley, less profitable and accounted for over half (207 × 106 m3/year) of abstracted renewable groundwater, or nearly 25 % of total resources allocated in 2010 (Subah and Habjoka 2011).
  • [4] The government has been reluctant to press for demand management in the past because this involved confronting influential landowners resisting reforms. Ministry of Agriculture's conservative policy is best understood in this context, though it also strongly champions the poor. The Ministry's cap for overall irrigation use set at 700 × 106 m3/year may be politically-doable, but is arguably too high (510 × 106 m3 in 2010).
  • [5] Figures exclude supplies from As Samra extension for which finance is committed
  • [6] Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and four other riparian states are members of the Regional Organisation for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden which is committed to conservation of coastal and marine environments.
  • [7] The group comprises a former Turkish foreign minister and Lebanese finance minister and will in due course include Iraqi and Syrian representatives.
  • [8] In 1987 Syria agreed to supply Jordan with 208 × 106 m3/year but Jordan reportedly receives only 50–100 × 106 m3/year, and in drought years less. Experts say Syria has dug thousands of dams which deprive Jordan of its rightful share. Under the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, Israel is obligated to release 100 × 106 m3/year to Jordan, but actual releases are closer to 50–60 × 106 m3/ year, reports the MWI Water Budget, 2012.
  • [9] Arab parties would need to consult with members of the Jordan River Initiative for Cooperation, which is committed to the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Water courses.
  • [10] For discussion on Spragg bag technology, see middle-east
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