Interview: Mousa Al Jamaani

How are the challenges associated with large-scale desalination projects being tackled in Jordan?

MOUSA AL JAMAANI: There are several desalination ventures with considerable potential. However, they exceed current financial and energy resource capacities. The kingdom is working to attract sufficient foreign investment and private sector participation to support acquiring desalination technology. Despite these challenges, the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, a large-scale desalination project, is being developed to meet growing demand and to provide water for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The first phase, to be completed by 2020, should produce 250m cu metres per year (cm/yr) of desalinated water out of 556m cm/yr Red Sea raw water. The resulting 306m cm/yr brine generated during this process will be used to help stop the deterioration of the Dead Sea and restore its water level. About 2bn cm/yr of raw water will be pumped from the Red Sea at the project’s final phase.

What plans are in place to make the water sector more attractive to foreign investors?

AL JAMAANI: A key component is improving performance and efficiency. In addition to investment programmes, we plan to establish public companies to manage water and wastewater services. Three such companies already exist: Aqaba Water, Amman’s water company Miyahuna and the North Governorates’ Yarmouk. Partnerships have been forged with the private sector, with certain business units outsourced to independent firms. The Water Authority of Jordan now operates by way of decentralised and commercially-run local water entities in six out of 12 governorates.

How is the government reforming water subsidies to reduce deficit spending and encourage more responsible consumption?

AL JAMAANI: While the government knows certain financial incentives can help to promote responsible consumption of water resources, it also recognises its responsibility to provide the Jordanian people with equal and affordable access to water. We are working on revising the water tariff policy to increase prices for high consumers of water, while considering affordability for those in low consumption categories, such as the poor. Cross-subsidies have also been implemented between different water consuming sectors, resulting in higher water costs for industry and tourism.

What is being done to protect water reserves from point source and non-point source pollutants?

AL JAMAANI: The Ministry of Water and Irrigation is actively working with governmental and non-governmental environmental protection agencies in an effort to establish water protection zones. Awareness campaigns and training sessions are provided at the community level, and water protection principles are now included in land use planning at the ministerial level. Water quality monitoring programmes are being implemented by concerned technical staff at the ministry and through contracts with the Royal Scientific Society to assure conformity of water quality with local and international standards. Analysis results showed a conformity of drinking water samples exceeding a ratio of 99% to World Health Organisation standards.

How can governments in the region ensure water scarcity does not lead to inter-state conflict?

AL JAMAANI: Though access to water has led to regional tension and conflicts in the past, recent efforts demonstrate water management can also provide opportunities for cooperation. Bilateral negotiations on water-sharing rights should foster cooperative policy making in common fields of interest. Jordan has agreements for trans-boundary water sharing with both Syria and Israel, and the kingdom has a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia on a shared groundwater aquifer. The Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project is a good example of regional cooperation between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.