This is the second of a series of blogs that explore issues of water demand management in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, looking at water saving options in the domestic and agricultural sector. This entry about agricultural water demand management in Jordan was written by Emily Hylton, FoEME intern at the Amman office.
As discussed in the first installation of our series on water management, water scarcity in Jordan has required the country’s government and citizens to find strategies to reduce water use for domestic purposes. Innovation is similarly required to conserve the water that Jordanians use in agricultural production.
In the second half of the 20th century, Jordan’s development was mainly driven by irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley. Farming provided jobs for Jordanians and Palestinian refugees alike and helped to reduce poverty in the valley. Unfortunately, population growth, industrialization, and agricultural development have increasingly put pressure on the country’s water resources. Demand for agricultural water use in Jordan now highly exceeds the available supply. While the agricultural sector in 2007 only contributed about 3% of the national GDP, it consumed about 64% of the country’s water supply. It is vitally important that the demand for water use in agriculture be reduced in order to protect resources like the Dead Sea and Jordan River and to encourage more sustainable economic development in Jordan.
In accordance with research conducted for the Lower Jordan River Rehabilitation Project Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis for Jordan, FoEME suggests four major strategies for managing water demand in the agricultural sector.
Use of treated greywater for irrigation will allow farmers to reuse water and reduce the amount of freshwater needed in agriculture. However, risk management for health issues associated with raw vegetables irrigated with treated water will require further investment in research and infrastructure.
In order to decrease overall agricultural activity, the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) has the opportunity to rent farmland used for vegetable production from farmers during summer months. Winter irrigation is supplementary and minimal compared to the high water needs for irrigation during the hot, dry summer months. Reducing agricultural activities in the summer will save water, while still allowing for production during the more practical winter months.
Optimization of irrigation through techniques such as drip irrigation and green house technology provides farmers with ways to minimize their water needs for planting, growing, and harvesting. The French Regional Mission for Water and Agriculture has developed a project in collaboration with the JVA using such technologies to optimize distribution in the Jordan Valley through JVA networks and through local farms. Farmers involved receive subsidies for installing the necessary equipment.
The JVA can further reduce the water demanded for agriculture by increasing the water tariffs currently set for agricultural water consumption. Higher tariffs should more accurately reflect the cost of system maintenance and operation in addition to the cost of pumping.
All of these proposed measures should only be implemented in consultation and partnership with Water User Associations. Comprised of farmers, these public associations collaborate closely with the JVA in decision making about water distribution. In addition to protecting environmental resources, water demand management in the agricultural sector should support the welfare of farmers and those who depend on the agricultural economy of Jordan.