2006-11-14 07:43:00
Embassy Amman
Cable title:  

Jordan's Water and Sanitation Sector

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DE RUEHAM #8401/01 3180743
R 140743Z NOV 06



State for OES/PCI - Salzberg and Blaine
State also for NEA/ELA and NEA/RA - Lawson
USAID for Miller and Deely and for ANE
Cairo for USAID - David Barth

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Jordan's Water and Sanitation Sector

Ref: A) State 128229
B) Amman 2108




State for OES/PCI - Salzberg and Blaine
State also for NEA/ELA and NEA/RA - Lawson
USAID for Miller and Deely and for ANE
Cairo for USAID - David Barth

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Jordan's Water and Sanitation Sector

Ref: A) State 128229
B) Amman 2108

1. (SBU) Summary: Jordan is a country that is critically and
chronically short of water. It has immense needs in its water and
sanitation sector. There is much potential for enhancing the
already significant USG engagement in this sector. A coordinated,
multi-agency approach within the USG will promote a proper balance
between infrastructure and a focus on water policy. Improvements
are under way, but are sometimes slowed or thwarted by bureaucratic
obstacles. Jordan is an excellent base for regional water
initiatives. End summary.

USAID Water Program

2. (U) The USG began helping Jordan cope with water and sanitation
problems 50 years ago. USAID is by far the largest donor in
Jordan's water sector, and is currently supporting approximately 30
projects. The annual USAID/Jordan budget for water and environment
activities is $45 million, with another $20 million equivalent of
local currency. When completed, these activities will benefit more
than three million Jordanians. Potable water supplies will have
increased by more than 40 percent in Amman, 15 percent in Aqaba, and
20 percent in the Northern Governorates. About 62.6 million gallons
per day of reclaimed water will be made available from new and
upgraded wastewater treatment plants. Additional activities with
the GOJ help to improve water policy and enforcement. Industrial
collaboration helps reduce water demand and improves the quality of
wastewater discharges. At the local level, efforts focus on
in-house management of water and increased productivity per unit of
on-farm water used.

3. (U) The commitment to partner with the U.S. is documented by
these 50 years of collaboration and the many important achievements
reached over that time. The majority of investment has been in
infrastructure improvements that have resulted in better services to
millions of Jordanians. Over the past decade, USAID has supported
the GOJ in water sector policy development, planning, and resource

management. The focus has been on water resources monitoring,
laboratory analysis, and information systems. USAID work has helped
develop Jordan's first National Water Strategy, as well as a series
of policy statements on groundwater, wastewater, irrigation, and
utility management. There is still much to be done. A balanced
program between additional infrastructure improvements and policy
focus will remain the Mission's goal.

Assessing Jordan's Needs

4. (U) In spite of the significant, continuing bilateral
cooperation, Jordan is still one of the ten driest countries in the
world, and the needs in water and sanitation are huge. Total
projected gross water demand is expected to reach about 1,610
million cubic meters (MCM) per year by 2020, but the annual
long-term average volume of usable water is about 683 MCM per year.
The GOJ estimates that groundwater is being used at twice the
replenishment rate. Only about 55% of the Jordan population is
connected to a wastewater collector network. Those not connected to
wastewater disposal systems rely on cesspits and other on-site
facilities. Up to half of the water pumped for urban use is lost
within distribution systems. Water rationing is common due to

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Jordan's Commitment to Water and Sanitation Issues
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5. (SBU) To address its water issues, the GOJ has developed a
National Water Master Plan (NWMP). The NWMP proposes to satisfy
water demand with stringent water conservation policies and
programs, and with new water from identified and yet-to-be
identified sources. The GOJ often looks to donors, and particularly
USAID, where there has been a long and productive relationship, to
construct new infrastructure and to rehabilitate existing

6. (U) The GOJ's preferred solution to drinking water shortages in
Amman is the construction of three mega-projects. The first is the
USAID-supported $104 million Zara Ma'in project to design and
construct a desalination plant and water conveyance system. Zara
Ma'in will provide over 40 million cubic meters (MCM) of water per
year to the Greater Amman area. The plant is in start-up mode, and
is currently operating at 25% capacity. It should be completed
within a year.

7. (SBU) The second large water supply project is a proposed
Build-Own-Transfer system to deliver 100 MCM per year of groundwater
to Amman from the Disi Aquifer near Aqaba (ref B). Since the Disi
project is designed to tap into a non-renewable fossil aquifer, the
project needs to ensure that the water is used only for high value
uses. The third proposed GOJ mega-solution is the multi-billion
dollar Red Sea - Dead Sea Conveyance project, which would produce
about 800 MCM per year of desalinated water for Jordan, the
Palestinian areas, and Israel (ref B). Note: It remains to be seen
whether these latter two projects make environmental and economic
sense. On Red-Dead, the USG has not taken a position on the project
itself, but has committed to a $1.5 million contribution to a
feasibility study that will address the technical, economic,
environmental, and social aspects of the project. End note.

Successful Models Exist

8. (U) Over the years, there has been a great deal of success in
improving water and wastewater infrastructure through USG-Jordan
collaboration. There is also a fledgling reform movement in the
water sector. Public sector utilities are beginning to move towards
commercialization. There is an interest in business-like approaches
to water management, such as the Aqaba Water Company's initial
success (supported by USAID). USAID is supporting the Greater Amman
Municipality's move in this direction. Commercialization has
sparked a host of benefits, including greater employee satisfaction,
more efficient procurement of goods and services, faster consumer
response time, and improved system efficiency.

Many Opportunities for Continued Engagement

9. (U) The USAID Jordan Water Resources and Environment (WRE)
program is a blend of activities to help the GOJ meet current and
projected near-term future water demand, while encouraging the
government to make the changes needed for long-term sustainable
management of water resources. USAID has been collaborating with
other USG agencies in this effort. State, through its Environmental
Hub Office in Amman, is a constant and regular strategic partner in
these efforts. USAID collaborates with the U.S. Geological Survey
to improve groundwater management in Jordan. Collaboration with EPA
has improved understanding of industrial wastewater management and
areas for additional investment. The U.S. Forest Service has
provided training to key GOJ staff in improved watershed management.
This multi-agency approach is productive and should continue.

10. (SBU) Given the likelihood that smaller, decentralized,
demand-based approaches will be more cost effective and successful
in the long run than some of the mega projects like Disi and
Red-Dead, Post interlocutors of key GoJ water policy and other
officials will continue ongoing efforts at emphasizing these
priorities to the GoJ. USAID is trying to work with the GOJ towards
improving the inefficient water distribution network, and on
charging consumers - especially in agriculture - what the water
really costs. The ultimate goal of USG assistance is to promote
sustainable and efficient use of water in different sectors
(agriculture, industry, domestic, environment) which maximize
economic return. Post will continue to emphasize to the GOJ the
need for careful consideration of the long-term economic and
environmental impacts of proposed solutions.

11. (SBU) To help mitigate the resistance in some quarters to
institutional change in the Jordanian water sector and the
administrative inefficiencies that hamper reform, greater
involvement of stakeholders - particularly consumers - in water
sector planning and decision-making is needed. As in the case of
many developing and developed countries, although there is some
urban planning in Jordan, initial development plans are often
ignored. Plans are often changed at the will of large investors,
with little thought for utility infrastructure or resource
availability. The politically influential, particularly wealthy
farmers, often are able to flout government water use plans.
Another area for ongoing and future water policy dialogue is that of
subsidized delivery of water and its negative impact on balanced
economic development, utility revenues, maintenance and customer
service. Mission officers will continue engaging the GoJ on these
issues, with appropriate involvement of Post leadership with senior
GoJ officials.

Opportunities to Strengthen US Engagement

12. (SBU) Because of both Jordan's pressing needs and the obstacles
that impede solutions, there are many additional opportunities for
USG engagement in water. Policy-level recognition within the GOJ of
good water management practices is paramount and a goal to be
pursued vigorously by Post. Many of these opportunities build on
past success or current activities, and include economic, political
and technical changes, such as:

-- Encouraging water to be properly valued so that its uses in
agriculture, households, industry and the environment can be
properly compared;
-- Regulatory reform in agriculture to encourage water
-- Improving demand side management (reduction strategies) and
pollution prevention in industry;
-- Promoting water conservation and reuse;
-- Improved water utility business practices (use of information
technology, better metering, billing, and collection systems; cost
recovery; establishment of corporate structures; encouraging
adoption of water-conserving fixtures).

-- Encouraging stronger implementation of existing water laws;
-- Improved governance structures such as water user groups.

-- Supporting sound science for calculating the quantity of
available surface water and groundwater;
-- Loss reduction programs (to address leaks and unaccounted-for
-- Wastewater treatment assessment and targeted investments in
treatment infrastructure;
-- Assistance to rural communities for water harvesting,
landscaping, and aquifer recharge;
-- Promotion of brackish water desalination;
-- Promotion of use of treated wastewater, especially in

13. (SBU) Post has developed a series of specific suggestions that
address water policy issues. These are currently being shared among
multiple offices at Post. The challenges facing Jordan's water
sector are many, serious, and often deeply entrenched. They will
not be resolved easily. However, a coordinated USG approach led by
the Ambassador and drawing on the extensive and successful track
record established by USAID represents a viable approach towards
assisting the GoJ to meet these challenges.

Leveraging Off Other Donors

14. (U) USAID is by far the largest donor in Jordan's water sector,
giving the USG good leverage to implement water sector activities.
Other significant donors include Japan, Germany, and the European
Union, who are working to improve water distribution and wastewater
systems, provide GOJ staff training, and support project
administration. Several other donors have activities in the water
sector, and USAID coordinates with them through regular meetings.
As a result of this coordination, USAID water programs complement
many individual programs undertaken by the Japanese, the Germans,
the EU, the French, the Swedes, the Swiss, the GOJ, and the
Jordanian private sector. The World Bank supports the Red Sea-Dead
Sea Conveyance project by organizing donors and managing a trust
fund for the feasibility study, to which the USG is contributing
$1.5 million. There is broad consensus in the donor community about
the shortcomings and needs of Jordan's water sector. The Mission
will continue to coordinate with donors and share specific water
policy suggestions.

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Opportunities to Leverage Work in Other Sectors
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15. (U) Several opportunities exist for collaboration between
USAID's Water Resources and Environment (WRE),Economic
Opportunities (EO),and Social Sectors (democracy, governance,
health) programs. WRE training programs can integrate with
vocational training efforts from EO. Collaboration between USAID
programs to improve business and environmental practices is
possible, including industrial recycling and treatment of wastewater
within the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs). Environmentally
friendly disposal of industrial effluents is another cross-cutting
topic. A current WRE community-level program supports good
governance, sound environmental practices, and promotion of public
health. Management of medical waste supports good health practices
(Health Office) and good environmental practices (WRE).

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Specific Programs that Might Support Post Efforts
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16. (U) The USG, primarily through USAID, has made many significant
investments in Jordan's water sector over the years. These include
building infrastructure, assisting with policy and planning, and
promoting alternative technologies and approaches. The USG has
pushed a reform movement that could enhance efficiency, economic
rationality, service delivery and system performance. Post suggests
that Washington support for regionally based technical programs in
water would promote better stewardship of water resources and
political goodwill. NEA's EXACT Water Data Banks project, the
Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) grants program, and MEPI
funding for FTA-related environmental training are all good examples
of modest investments promoting multiple goals: political
engagement, environmental protection and sustainable economic

17. (U) The USG contributes in many ways to address the daunting
challenges in Jordan's water sector. USG engagement at the
pragmatic and the policy levels promotes economic development and
improves the quality of life.