Trading Water

Most people take the access to water for granted. It’s one of the most important nutrients for human bodies and without it agriculture would be impossible. Vital for any activity; Water.

While most of Jordan is or has become desert, available water has been pretty scarce for centuries in some areas. Though, many Jordanians have no idea their water consumption will have serious consequences for the future. Eventually they’ll be forced to cut back on the usage, simply because there won’t be enough water left.

Wadi Araba after rain
Wadi Araba after rain

With civilization, better medical care more people came to the area of Jordan. Most of them were Bedouins, crossing through the area which is nowadays called Jordan. This nomadic kind of lifestyle forced them to be one with nature. Still they had something destructive with them on their journeys; goats. A beloved piece of meat for dinner or for the milk, to make yogurt or cook Jordan’s national dish Mansaf has unforeseen consequences in these days.  

Goats overgraze grasses and bushes in Jordan. They also eat the roots of the vegetation, those that keep the dust and sand on the same place and those preventing erosion and finally also part of the water (sheep, in contrast to the goats, leave the roots on their place). In other words, Jordan’s national dish Mansaf also can be destructive. 😉

Spilling water while there’s only so much to consume. Anything else? Yes, in fact many other challenges. One of these is the population in Jordan increasing rapidly from roughly 6 to 7,5 million in a short time (Refugees). An extra million people who consume.

The dying Dead Sea

Not only fresh water reaches its limits. Also the Dead Sea has a shortage of water. Every year the water level drops due to vaporization. At the same time, the water that flows towards the Dead Sea is not sufficient to maintain the same water levels. In winter it does rain occasionally in Jordan, but much water streaming towards the Sea is intercepted and used for agriculture and households. The ‘leftovers’ are for the Dead Sea and are clearly not sufficient to keep it alive.

The Red Sea to Dead Sea Challenge

There are several possible solutions (click here to read an article about them) to get more water in the Dead Sea. One of them is a pipeline from Aqaba pumping water to the Dead Sea. The real challenge is not only getting the water there, but also making the water salt enough to keep you floating.


What about the shortage of water for the households? Another pipeline! Under the Wadi Rum desert there’s a big underground lake with water which is of enough quality. Via huge pipelines this is pumped all the way towards the North, to Amman. Still, not enough capacity to provide the need of water in the future; As you’re reading this, already 90% of the pumping capacity is reached.

Next to above, desalinated water from the Red Sea will be used as well. Future plans contain a big project based in the Wadi Araba desert where water from the Red Sea will be prepped. The saltiest water coming from the post desalination phase will be used for the Dead Sea, other water will be used for the households and traded with Israel. The desalinated water goes to Israel in return for drinking water from the Tiberias Reservoir (click here for the complete article).

Wadi Rum bridge, picture by J. Koopman
Wadi Rum bridge, picture by J. Koopman

As a tourist, you won’t notice much of the water shortage in Jordan. Maybe less water pressure every now and then. We’d like to ask you to consider the shortage of water when you take a shower. And don’t keep Jordan on your bucket-list for later; the possibility to visit the Dead Sea may be a little smaller!

Greetings from Petra,

Carmen & Mohammad

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