Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Water Situation in Jordan

The fields surrounding the village of Al Mughayyir, in northen Jordan, bear witness to the effect of water scarcity which has created a shift in the social pattern of local villages, with many abandoning agriculture and farming and moving to neighboring cities. Photo Copyrights Mohammad Asfour

The water situation in Jordan is in need of dramatic changes to ensure positive outcomes in national water resource management. Already nearing crisis levels, it is estimated that any slight change in current levels or quality of water will have a significant effect on agriculture, industry, nutrition, health and ultimately the security of the Kingdom.
This is a story that everyone has heard before. It is a story at the heart of Jordan’s neighborhoods and villages where ramifications are felt every day, affecting the lives of thousands of individuals. Men and women, both young and old, have learned the meaning of water scarcity the hard way, as places and communities they call home have transformed into daily battlegrounds of uncertainty and disappointment. To tell the story of water in Jordan, one would travel far and wide, yet this is an attempt to tell the story through  three tales of struggle, determination, and success in facing one of the biggest challenges this century.
Chapter 1:    Water Wise Women Initiative
Location:  Zarqa, Sheikh Hussein, Kafrein, Salt and Madaba
In a country the ranked 4th poorest in water resources per capita, various initiatives are continuously created to tackle the issue of water scarcity. This story aims to shed light on one initiative which attempts to build women’s capacity as change agents in community and domestic water conservation and management and to stress on the importance of behavioral change.
The Water Wise Women Initiative (WWWI) was created in 2007 to develop a long-term sustainable mechanism of effective water use at household and community levels, through demonstrating the impacts of behavioral change campaigns and the contribution of women to enhance living conditions in their local communities and neighborhoods. The initiative’s main focus was to develop a sustainable mechanism for transform the knowledge of water scarcity challenges in Jordan to actual saving and management mechanisms. Its key challenge was to be able to create a non-monetary incentive system that will keep the women actively involved and positively influencing their community’s water issues on the long run.
10 to 15 water-wise women were identified and trained from each of the nine communities -with an actual total number of 135- each representing a distinctly different area with its specific water related needs and problems. The women were trained in a number of diverse modules or topics that cover areas that are relevant to the water sector in Jordan including:
  • Water saving and efficient use on the level of each household
  • The relationship between water users and governmental, non-governmental, and private sector providers
  • Grey-water reuse and rain water harvesting
  • Water for house- gardening and agriculture
  • Water resources protection
  • Plumbing and water storage
  • Marketing and communication
Between 1985 and 2004 Jordan’s total water use increased by more than 27%, from 639 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) to 810 MCM, yet water use for municipal or domestic purposes showed the highest increase in average annual water consumption growing by 71% from 153 to 262 MCM. Domestic and Municipal water use also accounted for more than 32% of total water use and 36% of fresh water use. Historically, the official approach towards water resources management in the Kingdom has tended to be supply driven; where in the occurrence of a shortage, the solution usually involved the capital investment in new water supply projects. A shift from the traditional supply oriented approach towards one of water conservation and demand management was deemed essential for the sustainability of water resources, as well as economic efficiency and social development.
In order to address this, a National Water Strategy was developed in 1997 which included water demand strategies across domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors. The strategy’s program for the municipal sector aimed at achieving greater efficiency in residential, municipal, and commercial use of water through tariff structuring to promote water conservation, increasing water awareness through water media campaigns, private sector participation in management of supply systems, and promoting water conserving landscaping and the use of grey water. In response, many of the topics covered in the WWWI training helped promote domestic water demand management using an easily-replicable approach. The training modules were also continuously revised and updated to meet arising needs of communities. They were also documented, archived and made available for reference and training in other locations.
After completing the training, regular meetings were conducted with the WWWI to further work on the issue of sustainability. It was envisaged that for the WWWI Trainees to sustain their role as agents of change they must achieve a concrete benefit -either through heightened social standing in their community or additional income. Thus the sustainability of the initiative was designed to be achieved through water-related income-generating projects that empower the trained women (socially and financially) with respect to their work as agents of water awareness in their communities.
Historically, water awareness campaigns in Jordan were generally short-term project-initiated activities, which did not focus on concrete behavioral change. Evaluation of campaign effectiveness were used to measure the change in awareness and knowledge achieved, rather than in concrete behavior. The Water Wise Women Initiative attempts to address the shortcomings of previous campaigns by establishing a community based pool of knowledge on efficient and protective water management at household and community levels.  The WWWI trainees act as agents and multipliers for behavioral change within their families and in their immediate social environment by becoming qualified to provide concrete, appropriate, and workable advice on water management and conservation issues to fellow women and other concerned members of their community. They also serve as a link to the government, to donors that support water initiatives, and to private sector providers of water saving, harvesting, and reuse technologies.
The WWWI initiative was made possible through the help and support of several local and international organizations including the Jordan Hashemite Fund for Human Development and the German International Cooperation.
Um Tareq from the Ein Rahoub Women Association explains the role of women in the village in promoting water conserving behavior and practices. As evident from her story and that of the Water Wise Women Initiative (WWWI), it is clear that women play a vital role in safeguarding one of the country’s most precious natural resources. Photo Copyrights: Mohammad Asfour

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