Running Low on Water, Jordan Looks to Imports and Desalination

By BLOOMBERG

Jordan is pushing ahead with plans to import urgently-needed water from Israel and hopes to complete a feasibility study for a pipeline by September.

Water resources in the country are being stretched by climate change and a rapidly growing population, according to Water and Irrigation Minister Mohammed Al Najjar.

The study by companies from the United Arab Emirates “will determine the route of pipeline but our preference is to get the water in the northern part of Jordan,” where the capital Amman is located, he said in an interview.

Jordan’s struggled to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria in recent years.

Climate change has also hit Jordan’s water supplies, said Najjar. Its aquifers are rapidly depleting and it’s getting 20% less rainfall than it did 50 years ago, causing more land to turn into desert, he said. The government expects unmet demand for water to surge from around 50 million cubic meters in 2021 to 70 million this year.

Water-Solar Swap

In an agreement involving the U.S. and the UAE, Jordan is meant to receive 200 million cubic meters a year of desalinated water from Israel. That’s roughly 20% of what the Jordanian government supplies its citizens and residents with today. Jordan will, in return, allow UAE companies to build 600 megawatts of solar power that will be solely for export to Israel.

The swap deal will partly make up for a shelved multi-billion dollar project to pump water from the Red Sea to the inland Dead Sea on the border of Jordan and Israel.

Jordan also wants to desalinate water itself by 2027, said Najjar. The government has invited five consortiums to bid to build a plant at Aqaba capable of handling 300 million cubic meters a year. The winner will construct a pipeline linking the plant to Amman and other areas.

Without both projects, Najjar said, unmet water demand will rise to 300 million cubic meters annually by 2040.