The Ripple Effects of a Crisis: Water Shortage in Jordan

BY Sara Mejias

For the past year, much has been written about the Flint water crisis after high levels of lead were found in the town’s water system. Lead poisoning has been known to significantly hurt the development of children. The outcry has lead to much debate about lead poisoning all over America, especially in the context of economic inequality and race. 

In Jordan, another water crisis is bubbling—but it is one that has been going on for many years and shows no signs of stopping without intervention from the humanitarian and development community.

It is no secret that Jordan has a water shortage problem; in fact, Jordan’s 2008-2022 water strategy outlined the ways that the country was going to improve its water resource management. However, the plan did not predict the ongoing inflow of refugees from Syria. By December 2013, Jordan had already surpassed an 8 million increase in population, 9 years earlier than expected. 

Even before the Syrian refugee crisis, it was predicted that Jordan’s population would have only 90.5 cubic meters of water per person per year by 2025 if new measures were not taken. In comparison, an average person in America uses 9000 cubic meters of water per year. The World Bank recommends a 1000 cubic meters of water per person per year globally. In the wake of the increase in population, a new strategy and further funding is needed to increase water efficiency in Jordan. 

Increased investment in water-improvement projects can have positive effects that go beyond meeting a person’s basic water needs; it creates positive outcomes for host country relations, the government, and the environment according to publications on the water situation in Jordan, such as Mercy Corps’ “Tapped Out” report.

Increased water investment can alleviate tensions between Jordanians and Syrians. Once Jordanians start seeing improvement in the water system, they will be less likely to see Syrians as a burden to the country. 

Political stability will increase in Jordan with higher levels of water availability. Jordanians have been known to protest over the lack of water in households, especially during the summer months. 

The environment will be better preserved for the future. Tackling the water crisis in Jordan can lead to the preservation of water related ecosystems such as rivers in Jordan that are necessary to alleviate water scarcity. 

In the future, a country’s water shortage could even start impacting their international credit rating

Aleena Farishta writes in her 2014 master’s thesis “The Impact of Syrian Refugees on Jordan’s Water Resources and Water Management Planning” that “groundwater overdraft, pollution of freshwater sources, and the inability of the existing water infrastructure to cope with an additional 600,000 people were cited as major concerns for Jordan’s water sector.”

Since refugees have continued to increase in Jordan throughout the protracted refugee situation, it is important that long term solutions to the water crisis are taken seriously.

In light of the Flint water crisis, Americans are well aware of the necessity for clean, reliable water in a person’s life. However, with the Syrian refugee situation still underfunded, it is painfully obvious that not enough is being done to fund emergency aid, let alone long term investment.