As summer droughts bite from Italy to India, Economist Impact study in Jordan shows what awaits a world in water deficit

20 July 2022
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Read the study here.


A new study by Economist Impact, commissioned by UNICEF, warns that serious socio-economic consequences await countries around the world as they battle both rising temperatures, climate change and a crunch on food prices - with children and women disproportionately affected.

According to Tapped out: The costs of water stress in Jordan, one of the most water-stressed nations in the world is a blueprint for growing water shortages globally as demand continues to outstrip supply. Included in the study findings:

  • The social and economic damage of the growing water deficit will impact not only agriculture but also the services sector, which is key to Jordan’s economy.
  • The deteriorating water situation is a risk particularly to the most vulnerable groups, including low-income households, those facing food insecurity, refugees, as well as women and children.
  • An increase in childhood illnesses caused by lack of access to water might not only stunt children’s growth and development but will decrease their capacity for learning and reduce their long-term earning potential, particularly for girls.

Like much of the world, Jordan is facing a declining supply of freshwater and ever-growing demand, exacerbated by the fact that around 50% of the water supplied is lost due to technical or commercial losses. The study also highlights that women and girls are disproportionately affected by inadequate water access due to their role in domestic activities and the importance of sanitation for dealing with menstruation, pregnancy and infant care. Inadequate access to proper sanitation and hygiene will also have a knock-on effect on national efforts to increase the participation of women in the workforce.

With tensions over water resources rising in the Middle East and North Africa region as the climate heats up, the study emphasises the importance of dialogue and diplomacy needed to enhance water security. Jordan as a downstream country currently obtains 40% of its water from transboundary basins, leaving it heavily dependent on its upstream neighbours.

The study includes recommendations for policy choices that can reduce water stress and help protect vulnerable populations and the economy. New desalination projects, reduced water loss and leakage revisions to the water tariff schedule can significantly minimise growth in water stress and the resulting damages. Meanwhile, regional cooperation for an integrated management of rivers and aquifers that are shared with neighbouring countries would strengthen regional water security. The international community also has a role to play by providing monetary assistance and resources.

Commenting on the report, lead author Matus Samel said: “Jordan may be an outlier because it is one of the most water stressed parts of the world, but it is a blueprint for where a world in water deficit is going. In nearly every part of the world, demand is greater than supply and climate change is drying up critical water supplies. Without swift action to make water systems everywhere more efficient, we are facing a water crunch that will eclipse the food crunch we are already experiencing.”

Tanya Chapuisat, Representative, UNICEF Jordan, added: “Climate change and water scarcity is a child rights crisis. Taking urgent action now to protect this extremely precious resource is not only in Jordan’s best interest but, as this study shows, a regional and global imperative to protect the livelihoods of this and future generations. UNICEF will continue to work closely with the Government of Jordan and partners to support capacity building to identify and address the risks to WASH services posed by climate change and water scarcity.”



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