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THE WATER ISSUES THAT JORDAN has been facing and will face are outlined. Most of them stem from the imbalance in the population-water resources equation. The imbalance has been due to surges in population levels and a high rate of natural growth on the one hand, and to the trespassing of the neighbors against Jordan's rightful water share in international watercourses on the other. The impact of this imbalance is briefly reviewed in environmental, economic, social and public health dimensions, and viable options to augment the water resources of Jordan are presented. The impact of the historical developments in water legislation and institutional arrangements is presented and proposals made to enhance the institutional set up and the administration environment.


The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, declared independent in 1946, is vastly arid territory. Bound by Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the east. Palestine and Israel to the west, Syria to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south, the country is about 92% arid, and the agricultural land does not exceed 400,000 hectares, with only half that area on the average cropped each year due to uncertainty of rainfall. The country receives about 8.5 BCM, [1] of which an estimated annual quantity of a little over half a billion can be economically harnessed.. Thus the loss to evaporation if substantial and is estimated at about 94% of the annual precipitation. However, part of that evaporation occurs in the form of transpiration yielding grass that benefits livestock for a short period in spring. Another quarter million is available to the Kingdom from an international watercourse, the Yarmouk, which is the largest tributary to the Jordan. The Jordan, an international river, is totally used upstream before it approaches the Kingdom's borders with Israel. It is more like a drain for agricultural drainage water and other wastewater.

The government has invested handsomely in the development of its water resources. Dams have been built with a total capacity of about 160 MCM, and more are under construction. It also invesd in the development of irrigation infrastructures in the Jordan Valley, north and south of the Dead Sea, bringing some 35,000 hectares under perennial irrigation. The waters of the tributaries to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea are being utilized almost to their limits. No part of the Jordan River flow has been used by the Kingdom since 1964, the year that Israel began to control the outflow of the river from Lake Tiberias.

One wonders why the Kingdom, named after the holy and eternal Jordan River, does not use any of its water; and the answer to that is simple. The Kingdom draws its water rights on the Jordan directly from its tributaries before they discharge into the river. There is convenience in such an arrangement. It saves on energy cost that would otherwise be incurred if the water were to be pumped from the river, and, more importantly, the water, tapped from the tributaries, is of a superior quality to that of the Jordan river itself. The water quality in the course of the Jordan River after it leaves Lake Tiberias has deteriorated progressively since 1964, the year the flow out of Tiberias was stopped under the Israeli plan that diverted a good part of the river flow to the coastal areas and the Negev in Israel. The deterioration of the water quality is due to two reasons with cumulative effect. The first is the depletion of the freshwater flow in the river out of Lake Tiberias by virtue of Israel's diversion and oth er consumptive uses, and the second is the diversion to it of water of degraded quality. Saline water springs, naturally discharging into Lake Tiberias, and municipal and industrial wastewater, have all been diverted by Israel to discharge into the river course south of the lake. Additionally, the agricultural drainage water in the river basin on both the Jordanian and the Israeli sides, finds its way to the river course, thus adding to the environmental degradation of its waters.


Unlike most other analyses encountered in the local, regional and international literature about water in Jordan where experts speak of water shortage as though it is the work of nature, I represent that the water problem in Jordan is not natural but is man made in most of its aspects. To elaborate, the Kingdom, upon its proclamation as an independent country in May of 1946, had close to 350,000 people who would double approximately every twenty years. The water resources totaled 1000 MCM per year, making the annual average per capita about 3000 CM. Left to the natural population growth, the country would have reached a population level of about 2.6 million by 1999 compared to the 4.8 million people of today. The population boom has not been natural but has been the direct outcome of the creation of the State of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were compelled to migrate out of Palestine to take "temporary" refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. Jordan has been host to about 40% of those Pales tinian refugees. A corollary outcome had been the unity between part of Palestine (the West Bank) and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which unity allowed free movement of people, and the movement was from west to east. The phenomenon was repeated in 1967 with more displaced people pouring into Jordan from the West Bank and Gaza. Finally, the second Gulf war in 1990 forced about 300,000 Jordanians to return to Jordan from the Gulf countries that had provided them with employment and residence. The surges in population levels have therefore been not by work of nature or act of God, but were rather a direct outcome of the work of man.

For over two millennia the water resources of the country have been fluctuating around a stationary average and none of the immigrants carried with him/her a bucket full of water. With the natural resource availability running around a stationary average and the population steadily and, on several occasions, abruptly increasing, the results have been a huge tilt on the population-resource balance.

The erosion of the Kingdom's water resources caused more tilt. They dropped from 1000 MCM annually to about 750 MCM in 1999, reducing the per capita share from 3000 CM in 1946 to 175 CM half a century later. This erosion of the water resources available to the Kingdom has been man made also. It was due to the neighbors [2] trespassing against Jordan's water share, and due to the loss of water resources for environmental reasons (pollution), and both reasons are man-made.

In my efforts to calculate the population carrying capacity of the Hashemite Kingdom, I concluded that its land and water resources, utilized in the traditional methods of use prevailing in the Middle East, are capable of supporting about 1.0 million people, i.e., about 22% of today's population. Concisely put, the country in 1999 is accommodating over four times the population that its water and land resources can comfortably accommodate. This big tilt in favor of the population translates itself into parallel deficit in the foreign trade in food commodities, and in hardships encountered in the supply of municipal water to the population. However, the introduction of new technical advances in agriculture and irrigation, helped to make the agricultural trade deficit less dramatic. Finally, the water legislation and institutional arrangements devised for the organization and administration of the Water Sector in Jordan are as important as the imbalance in the population-water resources equation in the country , displaying chronic deficits in the annual water budget of the country.


Water is needed primarily for municipal, industry and agricultural (including livestock) purposes. Other beneficial uses include landscaping, tourism, transportation, power generation and another less important uses. Current uses in Jordan are primarily municipal (260 MCM) and industrial (60 MCM), and agricultural uses (620 MCM), a total of 940 MCM of which is in excess of the renewable resources currently available for use with an average of (630 MCM). The gap of 310 MCM is closed by using treated wastewater (55 MCM), non-renewable fossil water (60 MCM), by over-exploiting renewable aquifers (140 MCM), and by trans-boundary water transfer from Israel under the peace treaty (55 MCM). The exploitation of renewable groundwater aquifers stands today at 150% of their safe yields in the average, some ranging as high as 200%.

Among the sources of water to close the deficit, overexploitation of ground water is the most serious. It amounts to continuous borrowing from a source with no chance for repayment except in very wet years when the infiltration into the aquifers helps offset the cumulative draw-down of their water levels. Using treated wastewater in agriculture requires extra care in wastewater management to avoid environmental and public health hazards; and the reliance on fossil water of the supply of water can be justified when there is no other source for the supply for municipal water at affordable costs. Most developers, including lending and donor institutions, shy away from involvement in fossil water exploitation projects on environmental and sustainability grounds. There are limited options for increasing the resources, and using the fossil water for municipal uses is a forerunner in Jordan because of the absence of other feasible alternatives.


The successive surges in the population levels in Jordan posed multiple challenges of which the resources are one. The bulk of Jordan's water resources occur in the drainage basin of the Dead Sea. Modest intensities of rainfall (350-450 mm) permit rain-fed agriculture in a mountainous strip extending from north to south, and from the top of the escarpment overlooking the Jordan Valley in the west to the Hijaz railroad in the east. The inter-annual variation in rainfall and its monthly fluctuation during the season pose uncertainty concerning the success of winter crops, so that only half of the cultivable area is cultivated annually. The contribution to the rain fed agriculture accounts for about 15% of the food needs of the country. The rest of the production is credited to irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley (35,000 hectares) and a similar area in the high lands. Irrigation water in the Jordan Valley is drawn from the tributaries of the Jordan River, and from streams that discharge directly into the Dead Sea, whereas irrigated agriculture in the highlands draws on groundwater aquifers. The production of some 70,000 hectares of irrigated land account for about 20% of the food needs of the country, thanks to the introduction of advanced irrigation methods and production technologies. The rest of the food needs are met through trade deficits that amount to about U.S. $110 per capita or about 7% of the average per capita income.

More than other factors the over population is responsible for the imbalance in the population-water resources equation. The country's population has increased sixteen fold since its independence in 1946. This has been due to the forced migration out of Palestine in 1948, the West Bank to East Bank migration between 1950 and 1967, and the high rate of natural growth. The overall dramatic population increase on the national scene becomes more dramatic on the level of regions inside the country. The Amman-Zarqa corridor hosted the majority of immigrants, and witnessed the highest growth rates. This induced more strain on public services and utilities than the national average increase suggests. The generated demands for municipal water caused the authorities to divert agricultural water to urban uses and resulted in drying up of the perennial streams, especially the perennial stream of Amman, and, by 1977, the city needed more water than the local resources could supply. Inter-basin transfers of water became a familiar solution. Water was successfully transferred to Amman and Zarqa from Azraq in the east (1979), and Wadi Wala in the south (1988). The cost of providing the municipal water increased dramatically, and the water tariffs were not sufficient to recoup the operation and maintenance cost, let alone the capital expenditures. During the wave of returnees in 1990 from the Gulf states, for example, this urban corridor of Amman-Zarqa witnessed a 30% increase in its population over a period of a few months. The burden thus generated strained the available water resources and overloaded the wastewater treatment plant. The same phenomenon occurred in Irbid, the second largest city to which water was transferred from Azraq first (1961), from the eastern Badia (1968), and from the groundwater in the Jordan Valley (1985).

The other side of the equation, i.e., the resource side witnessed a decrease due to the trespassing of the neighbors against Jordan's water shares in the international watercourse. Israel trespassed against Jordan's share in the Yarmouk and the Jordan River, and Syria against Jordan's share in the Yarmouk. Prior to Israel's diversion of the Jordan River in 1964, Jordan had been using some of the river's water to irrigate about 6800 hectares in the Jordan Valley. The Kingdom's rights on the Jordan were finally settled in 1955 to be 100 MCM to be drawn from Lake Tiberias to irrigate the West Ghors which was then an integral part of the Kingdom. Since the diversion of the river in 1964, this share was never released by Israel. On the Yarmouk, the state of war with Israel did not allow the construction of a major dam on the Yarmouk to help provide Jordan with 377 MCM of water from that river. It further did not allow the construction of a diversion weir across the river to divert the Yannouk water into the King Abdallah Canal in the Jordan Valley. This political hardship limited Jordan's use of the Yarmouk to about 110 MCM per year, less than one-third of its rightful share. The rest of its share was trespassed against by Israel (50 MCM) and Syria (130 MCM), and the balance of about 87 MCM kept flowing as floods toward the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.

The combined effect of increase in population and resource exacerbated the imbalance in the population-water resources equation with profound environmental, economic and social and political impacts. Furthermore, the economic hardships that have been facing Jordan posed severe constraints in the expansion of water and wastewater services and limitations that affected the quality of wastewater effluents.


The interaction between water and the environment is well established. The less the water availability the more environmental hazards are posed. Coupled with a high density of population, the environmental impacts become more profound.

The cities and towns of the Kingdom are located on or near side wadis that used to have perennial flow emerging from springs. Amman, for example, had a stream that traversed it from west to east and was watering orchards on its banks all the way down to the Jordan Valley. Kerak, Zaqa, Jerash, Madaba and Salt had similar streams. The towns and cities depended on the springs that fed the streams for their domestic water supply, and the cost of tat supply was reasonable. With the population surge, the springs were diverted to municipal uses and the streams dried up leaving once irrigated orchards as parched lands. The increased demand for water prompted the authorities to drill tube wells and exploit the underlying aquifer resulting in the lowering of the water table. Several other springs, fed from the Amman aquifer, dried up with adverse impacts on agriculture. Wastewater infiltration from percolation pits that were used for wastewater treatment and disposal contaminated the underlying aquifer. The streambed soon became the drain for wastewater in addition to its role in carrying the flood flow. Wastewater collection networks and treatment plans had to be built, starting with Amman. The treated effluent was discharged from the treatment plant into the Zarqa River whose bed practically had dried up for the above reasons. Farmers started to use the treated effluent in irrigation as a substitute for the freshwater that had been diverted to urban uses. The sudden influx of people overloaded these plans and the effluent did not meet the required specifications for reuse. Several outbreaks of cholera posed serious risks to public health, and adversely affected the reputation of agricultural production.

Treated wastewater is also being used for irrigation. Most of it is blended with floodwater in the reservoir of the King Talal Dam before it is released for use in the central part of the Jordan Valley. The environmental impact of such uses on the soil, plant and fruit are well-known especially when the effluent does not meet the specifications laid for the wastewater reuse. The result of no growth in municipal water services was rationing of water, and a system of water rotation. This left the networks empty of water for a good part of each week and pollutants would enter the water networks causing environmental and health hazards. Roof tanks to store water became familiar, and the environmental integrity of domestic water was compromised. The shortage of water to households caused problems in domestic hygiene. Water shortage initiated the business of supplying water by tankers and the prices for water thus delivered became high.


The impact of the imbalance in the population-water resources equation lies heavily in the cost of water delivery and distribution, and in the cost of making food available in the market. Another associated cost is that of the need to raise water use efficiency, especially in agricultural uses where most of the resource is used.

Water delivery costs have increased in parallel with the increase in population growth. After the inexpensive local resources were stretched to their limits, municipal water was brought to Irbid from Deleil (1961) over a hauling distance of 50 Km. Municipal water was later brought to Amman from Azraq over a 70 Km distance in 1979, then from Swaqa over 50 Kin distance (1982). The pumping heads in these projects was reasonable in the order of 300 meters. Water then had to be pumped from the Jordan Valley to Amman over a 1350 meters total dynamic head and a 40-Km distance, and to Irbid over a 550 meters head and 30 Km distance. These projects more than quadrupled the cost of municipal water delivery. With the cost of distribution added, the total cost of municipal water delivery amounted to about 7% of the average per capita income in 1991. The marginal cost of delivery is on the rise at a rate faster than the improvement in the national income. By way of comparison, while the above water cost in Jordan prevail ed in 1991, the corresponding cost in the United States and in Canada were 0.28% and 0.3% of the per capita share on national income respectively.

Obviously, a Jordanian can not afford to meet the cost of water delivery as high as 7% of his share of the national income. The average collection as per the prevailing water tariff then amounted to about one half of that cost, covering the full cost of operation and maintenance but none of the capital expenditure. The balance of the cost had to be subsidized from Government treasury. The system worked as long as subsidies to the treasury itself was forthcoming from Arab assistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s. When the economy crashed in 1989, economic structural adjustment had to be undertaken. Such adjustment called for the gradual but systematic reduction of government subsidies, water subsidies, included. Concurrently, economic growth was very modest because of domestic and regional reasons, and the population increase made matters even worse. Implementing the economic structural adjustment qualified the country of adjustment loans from the World Bank, one of which was for the water sector. [3] The re sults, however, were much less than desired. The decade of the nineties did not witness the implementation of major projects in and water and wastewater because of the lack of capital funds. Fast turnover of officials in charge, the slow development planning process, and the focus on curtailing budget deficits in the restructuring program made the growth in the water sector almost stagnant. With the exception of two projects in the Jordan Valley, [4] there was virtually no growth in the water sector. Municipal water was rationed, and its service followed a rotation system with most neighborhoods receiving water in the summer for duration of 24 hours every week in the capital city of Amman.

In the irrigation sector, substantial government investments were made to improve the efficiency of water delivery to the farms between 1975 and 1992. The new systems adopted converted to pressure pipe networks all the old concrete lined canals. The farmers, in parallel, quickly adopted advanced irrigation techniques on their farms, and the water thus saved was planned for explanation in irrigation. However, the gradual increase in Syria's abstraction of the Yarmouk waters over and above its equitable share eroded the supply to Jordan of water from the Yarmouk, and the improvements in efficiency were hardly sufficient to compensate for water lost to Syria. The capital cost to save irrigation water was about U.S. $1.00 per cubic meter. Major investments are now planned to effect efficiency improvements in the delivery of municipal water. About $150 million are planned to replace the old networks in the capital city of Amman alone. This capital cost is about $100 per capita and will supposedly save about 30 MCM per year in rationed water, i.e., a cost of $5 per cubic meters per year. When water becomes more available, the cost per cubic meters saved per year would drop to about $2.00, because more water would be saved using the same network.

More investments are needed to upgrade and expand the wastewater treatment facilities. Treated effluent is considered a source for irrigation water and has to meet the specifications for unrestricted reuse. Today, the main wastewater treatment plant at Samra, serving the Amman-Zarqa conurbation, is running at about 250% of its design capacity of 68,000 cubic meters of raw wastewater per day. The effluent is hardly treated before it is discharged into the Zarqa River that is regulated downstream by the King Talal Dam. The effluent gets blended with the floods impounded by the dam and the water quality becomes slightly improved. This practice affected the good reputation of the agricultural production of the Jordan Valley. Markets in Saudi Arabia and some Gulf States are not receptive to the Jordan Valley produce despite the fact that the effluent irrigates only a portion of the Central Jordan Valley. The slow down in exports suppressed the prices to farmers, and the agricultural economy of the county has been suffering because of it.


The reduction in the yield of water resources, primarily the Yarmouk River, curtailed the expansion in irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley. Of the 36,200 arable hectares north of the Dead Sea, only about 26,000 are irrigated on a regular basis. More areas (about 3000 ha) await irrigation in the southern Ghors south of the Dead Sea to be added to the 5000 ha now under irrigation there. The agricultural lands in the Jordan Valley are capable of producing more than one crop a year, and the cropping intensity can be increased to about 135% valley-wide. This requires the availability of more irrigation water.

In Jordan's agricultural environment, it takes about 6000 cubic meters of irrigation water per year to support a family of six with the head of household working in agriculture or related services. This quantity of flow is capable of providing rural job opportunities, and of creating ancillary jobs in urban areas that cater for agricultural inputs, transport, wholesale and retailing services. It is estimated that a million cubic meters of water is capable of creating 200 jobs in direct and indirect agriculturally generated occupations. More than 80% of those would be in rural areas. Hence the availability of irrigation water helps to divert the population away from crowded urban areas with obvious advantages in reduction of known urban burdens and social and economic problems.

The constraints in water availability in Jordan are limiting the absorption capacity of rural areas to their current levels, and we are witnessing the growth of urban areas at faster rates than desired. The pressure of demand for services and for urban jobs is mounting, and unemployment is on the rise. Rural development, heavily dependent on water availability, will help attract people to rural jobs and to settle there, a phenomenon proved correct in Jordan through the implementation of the integrated development of the Jordan valley.


The options available to Jordan to augment its water resources are listed below. Some are feasible at this time, and others could be feasible in the distant future when the Gross Domestic Product more than doubles, and its distribution becomes more balanced.

Treatment and Reuse of Wastewater

The treatment of municipal wastewater to produce effluent with specifications fit for agricultural reuse is a viable option to augment irrigation water resources. Jordan has been practicing it since 1969, and has expanded such use ever since. Care should be taken to upgrade the treatment plants and to operate them within their design capacities. Treatment of agriculture drainage water is another possibility. Drainage water can be blended with fresher water and the blend used to irrigate sandy soils planted with salt tolerant crops.

Technology Transfer

This applies to transferring advanced irrigation methods and agricultural practices. It also applies to the adoption of the findings of genetic engineering research whenever possible. The yields of a unit land area per unit water flow could be multiplied several times compared to the current yields. Hence the output from the available irrigation water can be increased several folds.

Water Harvesting

Water harvesting techniques can save water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation or to discharge into the sea before use. Water thus saved can be used to water live stock, irrigate limited areas, and meet some needs of households in such purposes as gardening, landscaping and other domestic uses.

Fossil Water

A huge sandstone aquifer underlies the territories of the Kingdom and extends under the territories of adjacent countries. The quality of this aquifer water varies as a function of position. It has been found fresh in the southeast part of the country, and a major project has been designed to transfer from its water an average of 100 MCM per year to Amman for use in municipal purposes. More investigation of this aquifer is needed before its total capacity for water supply is determined. It is likely that the potential is much more than the yield mentioned in the above. The major drawback is that it is not renewable. However, it is capable to supply the above rate of water for about 150 years by which time a new source of energy is hoped to be developed to meet the requirements of human civilization before fossil oil runs out. When a new affordable source of energy is invented, it becomes possible to resort to desalinization of the water from the open seas that account for more than 98% of the waters on the g lobe.

Desalination of Brackish and Salt Water

This option is still too expensive for Jordanians to afford. On the one hand the cost of desalting seawater remains high, and, on the other, the sea is too far from the consumption centers in the urban areas. The capital cost and the energy cost to desalinate sea water at Aqaba and to pump it to Amman some 350 Km away and 1000 meters higher would make the cost of water in Amman close to U.S. $5.0 or higher after adding the cost of storage and distribution. On the other hand, the cost of desalting brackish water is much less due to the proximity of brackish water springs and aquifers, and the relatively lower energy needs for desalting. The renewable quantities, however, remain limited.

Regional Water Transfers

This could be a viable option whereby freshwater is transferred from water rich countries in the region (Turkey, Iraq) to water poor countries (parts of Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, and the Gulf States). This option could be viable during the peace era that is dawning on the region. It also will be economically more viable when the rich countries subsidize the poor countries in meeting the cost of the project. The recipient countries, with the exception of Syria, Jordan and Palestine, each has a per capita income today in excess of U.S. $15,000 as compared to about one tenth of it for the poorer three entities.


Water legislation in Jordan dates back to 1936 during the British mandate. It took more detailed shape in the late 1950's to cater for the development of irrigation in the Jordan Valley. The legislation and the institutional arrangements for water administration went hand in hand, so that a law was passed that created an organization to administer some aspects of water.

The first legislation (1936, 1946, and 1952) handled the settlement of land and water rights and entrusted it with the Development of Lands and Surveys. These were followed by legislation (1954) to manage the irrigation through projects implemented by Government and entrusted that responsibility the Water Department of the Ministry of Public Works. The first comprehensive legislation created the East Ghor Canal Authority in 1959 to which the Water Department was attached. A separate legislation was enacted to care for the supply of municipal water to towns and cities, and created the Central Water Authority that same year. The two merged in the Natural Resources Authority that was created by a separate legislation in 1965; and Department of Mineral resources of the ministry of National Economy was attached to it. New Legislation created the Jordan Valley Commission in 1973 to care for the planning and implementation of the projects for the social and economic development of the Jordan Valley. Another legislat ion was enacted in 1974 and created the Domestic water supply Corporation and took away from the Natural Resources Authority the responsibility for supplying bulk water to the population centers. The responsibility of water distribution in the population centers remained with the municipalities and village councils. In 1977 another legislation was enacted for the Jordan Valley Development creating a Jordan Valley Authority that took from the Natural Resources Authority the responsibilities of Operation and maintenance of the East Ghor Canal. New legislation was enacted in December of 1983 and created the Water Authority to which all the responsibilities of exploration, development, conveyance, and distribution of water, with the exception of irrigation projects, was transferred. That was the most drastic measure ever taken. Staffs from the municipalities all over the Kingdom were transferred from the community institution to become government employees. Overnight with some 10,000 personnel along with equipmen t, stores, vehicles, etc., a monster was created. In 1988 a Ministry of Water and Irrigation was created and brought under its umbrella the Jordan Valley Authority and the Water Authority. The Minister chaired the Boards of both authorities, and the members of the boards were more or less the same. In 1992, legislation was enacted creating a separate cadre for the Ministry operating under the Minister and headed by a separate Secretary General.

It has been noticed that each of the newly created institutions, operating under its respective law, enjoyed a "honeymoon" that varied in its duration. The East Ghor Canal and the Central Water Authority lasted for six years. The Natural resources honeymoon was interrupted by the June war of 1967. The honeymoon of the Jordan Valley Development institutions lasted the longest, between 1973 and 1982, and was pushed into inefficiency thereafter.

The frequent changes in institutional arrangements carried shocks and some chaos. Continuity of responsibilities was not maintained. The longest tenure was for the Jordan Valley Development (1973-present). The responsibilities included the development of infrastructure needed or economic and social development until 1987, but were then reduced and limited to irrigation water resource development.


This is probably the most important issue Jordan has faced since the mid-eighties. The merging of institutions through changes in legislation brought together staff and professionals from various backgrounds under the same organizational roof. Engineers of various disciplines and qualifications led the institutional transformations. Technical personnel, management personnel, operators, and other employees struggled for positioning with the new organization. While constructive competitive performance was encouraged by higher management, the competition soon transformed to factionalism within the same organization. Subjective judgments displaced objective competition. Soon it came to matter who you knew to be promoted; interventions by influential outsiders also skewed the organizations in as far as the treatment of personnel was concerned. Scholarships, training missions abroad, promotions, and other rewards were influenced, in addition to qualifications and merit, by subjective outlooks. The interrelationshi ps among colleagues became clouded with behaviors aimed at getting ahead at any price. The atmosphere of togetherness and "comradeship" that prevailed in the individual organizations before the institutional mergers gave way to negative competition and ambiguous means of covert character assassination.

The pay scales also did not match the rising cost of living. Government employees used to form the bulk of the "middle class", but they soon retreated into "lower middle class". This affected their performance and their loyalty. Several drawbacks emerged in such an environment including in certain cases weakness of employees in the face of temptation by interest groups and individuals.

During the "honeymoon" period of the above organizations, each enjoyed a special regulation for personnel, procurement, financial affairs, stores and the like. The honeymoon was over when these organizations were brought under the umbrella of the respective Government Regulations. There was added employment security but lesser efficiency. The right of the top management to hire and fire was severely curtailed, and the efficient employee had the same privileges as the inefficient. This added to the difficulties in running the business within the water institutions.

It is clear that the severe imbalance in the population-water resources equations translated into a gap between demand and supply can be better faced with efficient management. The more difficult the situation becomes, the more important it is to pay attention to the administration of the water sector. Efficient management produces better results and attracts better finances from the outside.


It became clear during the implementation of the economic restructuring program that government institutions displayed low efficiency in administering the water sector and in providing the services to the public. The trend to contract out the management of the utilities to outside companies commanded attention. The government decided to seek "Management Contacts" for water and wastewater utilities, and started out with the greater Amman region. Bids were floated for the provision of management services, and a Management Contract was awarded in June of 1999. A specialized international firm is now managing the water and wastewater services .in the great Amman region. It acquired the employees of the concerned Directorate within the Water Authority, and the offices, equipment and stores belonging to that Directorate. Within three months, the managing company had the right to return to the Water Authority no more than half of those employees.

The next step is to generalize the management contract over the Kingdom, followed at an appropriate time in the future by the award of concessions to firms to provide the water and wastewater services. The third state would be to privatize the utilities themselves, and have the government retain responsibility for the water resources and their ownership. This all depends on the degree of success in the undertakings prior to privatization, i.e., the Management Contracts and the Concessions.


The efficiency of management and of the resource use and the cost thereof remain the critical factors in the provision of utility services. The cost of providing water and wastewater services to the public should be within the reach of the society and its financial abilities. I believe that, in water poor country like Jordan, the cost of providing these services should not exceed 3% of the per capita share of the Gross Domestic Product. A plan should be devised by which the water and wastewater charges are tied to the GDP at a reasonable consumption rate. At that level of cost, cross subsidies, and not Government subsidies, should be the tool to have the rich aid the poor in meeting the cost of water and wastewater services. The challenge to Government then becomes to promote and accelerate economic growth to enable the members of society to meet the cost of living including the cost of those services.

It is clear that the cost of these services in Jordan is about double the recommended percentage of 3% of the GDP. Government has to provide the subsidies until such time as the economic growth makes it possible for the consumer to meet the high cost at the recommended percentage. If the full cost of the service is to be recovered at this time when the GDP per capita is barely $1500, people can not afford it and social and stability problems will result. Thus, it becomes clear that the size of the national economy is one important issue to consider when one thinks of the treatment of issues facing the water sector in Jordan. The cost of water service and the tariff structure to recover it fully determines the options, among the options cited above, which the country can embark on for the increase of its water resources.


The role of Government in the administration is gradually shifting to be that of regulation and supervision in the field of water resources. It is worth considering legislation for an autonomous National Authority for Water and Agriculture that would shoulder the regulatory and supervision functions of Government in these two sectors, and the planning for their development. Utilities should be managed by the private sector, and project implementation by the system of BOT (Build, Operate, and Transfer) under which the private sector would take the leading role.

The president of the authority would be appointed by the Council of Ministers, and the authority would have a Board of Directors chaired by the Prime Minister. The tenure of the President could be set at five years, renewable once. The Authority would thus be protected against the fast turnover in leadership that today is almost as frequent as once a year on average. By-laws and regulations independent of those observed by Government should be set for the proposed authority to assure management efficiency. The personnel for operations would be transferred to the operating management companies, and the authority would retain a select number of competent employees to perform the functions of planning for the development of the water resources and the agricultural sector.

Munther J. Haddadin is Senior Expert, Consolidated Consultants, Amman. He is the former Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation and was the lead negotiator on water related matters with Israel between 1991 and 1995.


(1.) Billion Cubic Meters; and MCM stands for Million Cubic Meters.

(2.) Israel and Syria have consistently drawn more water from the Jordan River basin than it was entitled to. The situation was rectified with Israel in 1995 pursuant to the Peace Treaty.

(3.) Debt service was a big burden. The local currency lost half of its value against the major foreign currencies.

(4.) The conversion of open canal networks to pipe networks in the north (financed by Japan), and the construction of the Karama dam (financed by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development).
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Author:Haddadin, Munther J.
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Geographic Code:7JORD
Date:Mar 22, 2000

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