Water security: a critical issue for children in Jordan today and for future generations

An Op-Ed on the current state of water security for children in Jordan

Robert Jenkins
A girl smiles at camera
UNICEF-Herwig

24 March 2019

In Jordan, the second most water-scarce country in the world, continued and scaled-up action is needed to protect this precious resource for children, and for future generations.

Children and youth all over the world have been increasingly speaking out and engaging around the critical issue of climate change. It’s be an impressive show of leadership on an issue that will significantly shape their lives in the future.

You don’t have to travel far within the country to see the impact that climate change is already having on local communities, from Wadi Rum to Umm Qais, from Mafraq to El Shune.

Zaid, a student in Zarqa, remembers seeing heavy snow every year as a child but notices that it only comes occasionally in recent years. Musa, a farmer and grandfather in Karak, can point to the hills around his small olive farm and paint a vivid picture of its lush agricultural past. But, without water, the land that was once rich with rows of fruits and vegetables has now turned to dust. His sons have left the farm to find work in cities.

Water scarcity is negatively impacting all Jordanians, but especially those living in the poorest and more marginalized communities, as they cannot afford to pay private water vendors.

Responding to water scarcity requires a more comprehensive approach that goes beyond pumping of more groundwater resources. A comprehensive solution is required to reverse the current trend of water levels decreasing faster than they are being replenished.

Renewed emphasis on ‘demand management solutions’ and on efficiency, conservation, and reuse of water will increasingly be a key part of the way forward. Promoting greater efficiency in the way water is used is often one of the least costly, yet most successful, efforts to achieve water security for all.

To help efforts towards sustainable, efficient water and sanitation services, UNICEF is supporting the development of a mobile application, which will enable the public to report incidents of water leakages and wastewater overflow within their community.

To complement this application, a database will also be created to direct alerts on leakages and overflows to maintenance teams. This is intended to significantly reduce response times and, importantly, reduce the volume of water that is lost by enabling the early detection and reporting of any leakage.

Initiatives will also be scaled-up to promote greater awareness within communities and households of the importance of conserving water and reducing the unnecessary use of water. In a combined effort with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, UNICEF is launching a series of public campaigns with messages that will highlight the importance of conserving water.

 

UNICEF will also continue to work closely with children and youth in these efforts, so they can not only learn about conservation methods, but also become powerful agents of change.

While Jordan is an international leader in water reuse, more can still be done. If treated wastewater is safely used for irrigation, more freshwater will be available for drinking. To demonstrate various technologies and promote awareness, UNICEF is supporting pilot projects in various schools throughout the country, where ‘grey water’ is being used for gardening and other initiatives.

Meeting the challenge of limited water resources will continue to require a concerted and national effort, with the Government, civil society, communities and children working closely together.

Protecting Jordan’s finite natural resources and ensuring equitable access to safe water and sanitation for all remains an important challenge. Collective action today will provide a bright future for children.

Robert Jenkins is the Representative of UNICEF Jordan. This Op-Ed was first published in Al-Rai and Jordan Times.