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Trilateral cooperation to ease strain on water resources

Article - May 7, 2015

Jordan, Israel and Palestine are working together on the first ever trilateral project to help combat declining water levels, a result of the influx of Syrian refugees to the kingdom

Jordan has taken in approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who are immediately eligible for relief and services in the refugee camps. These services, though generous, are resulting in an increasing burden on the country’s already scarce water supply, as well as on its education and medical resources.

Water is becoming a serious problem in Jordan, where 80% of drinking water comes from limited underground water aquifers. “We do not have more water after hosting six waves of refugees,” says Dr. Hazim El Nasser, Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation. “Digging more wells would throw our resources out of sustainability. In 10 years’ time our aquifers will be empty.”

The Red-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, a major undertaking that will employ the cooperation of the Israelis and Palestinians, is one way the country is working to address this issue. The goal of the project is to pass brine water from a desalination plant in the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, where half will be desalinated at a new plant in Aqaba and the remainder will be piped to the Dead Sea to help combat declining water levels.

“We are trying to transcend this challenge into investment opportunities in terms of investment, regional cooperation, and peace building,” Dr. El Nasser says, adding, “This was the first trilateral project between Jordanians, Israelis, and Palestinians; we want this project to be successful because if it is, it will be ‘the gateway’ for regional cooperation among the three partners.”

Meanwhile, the country is also dealing with increased costs for education, health and energy. To mitigate the impact of these rising costs, USAID has stepped up its aid efforts. Since financial year 2012, USAID has provided an additional $300 million in budget support and backed $2.25 billion in loan guarantees. It has also built schools and renovated hospitals.

Though Jordan faces challenges, the way it is meeting them could be seen as a model among its neighboring nations. The new projects are rife with investment opportunities, and other countries are looking to Jordan as an example in water management. 

“Whatever is being done in Jordan, other neighbors want to copy it because we have the same culture, the same language, and the same challenges,” Dr. El Nasser remarks.