By Abeer Numan

AMMAN – Jordan must work to store and make use of rainwater instead of focusing on drainage systems in order to address the water problem in the country, University of Jordan (UJ) Professor Nasim Barham said on Monday.

Delivering a lecture titled, “Water in Rentier States: A Case Study of Jordan”, at the UJ Centre for Strategic Studies, he said the main problem in Jordan is “wasting water”, not a shortage of the resource.

“Jordan receives sufficient amounts of precipitation, but 93 per cent of rainfall is wasted,” Barham added, highlighting inefficient practices by successive water ministries that have worsened the water situation in the country.

“No ministry has taken any measures to reduce the wasted water,” he said, charging that successive governments have worked alone on water management, nor engaging NGOs not community groups, thus increasing people’s dependency on the state.

The economic structure of the country as a rentier state, which has been continuously reliant on economic support from other countries, has been passed onto the water sector, Barham said, noting that this outlook does not help solve the problem. Instead, measures are needed to adapt to the water situation, he told the audience, which comprised academicians and researchers.

Instead of computing the size of agricultural lands to be cultivated, concerned bodies should first compute water amounts and decide on their effective distribution, Barham stressed.

The UJ professor criticised water ministers for suggesting the concept of virtual water as a solution, noting that the answer lies in going back to rain-fed agriculture to cultivate wheat, for example, instead of thinking about importing wheat from other countries.

In the discussions that followed the lecture, the audience emphasised the need to examine water-theft, poor distribution and the issue of unaccounted for water, suggesting several ways to reduce the increasing cost of potable water.

They recommended that water specialists and entities should tackle the issue in accordance with the geographic and demographic characteristics of each area.

Citing the high cost of pumping water from the Disi basin to Amman, they suggested that aquifer water be used to meet the needs of Wadi Rum and Petra, while better and more economic alternatives can be examined for the capital.