Given its unique historic stature, restoring the Jordan River is enjoying renewed attention.

Reduced desalinated water prices creates optimism about the potential to restore the Jordan River.

Population increases in the region undermine the ability to provide minimal environmental flow.

Climate change will continue to diminish the natural supply of water to the Jordan River.

Rehabilitating the Jordan requires greater commitment to increase water supply and control demand.


In the age-old debate between technological optimists and pessimists, desalination has been hailed as a “game changer” that can fundamentally alter the dynamics of water management under conditions of scarcity. While water from desalination facilities can reduce uncertainties in municipal supply, they are unlikely to replace the missing flow required to rehabilitate rivers and streams. The Jordan River is an iconic, but highly degraded water body whose restoration has been the subject of extensive research as well as numerous proposals and strategies. A review of the present state of the River and prospects for successful rehabilitation efforts reveals that neither the increase in the riparian population nor the reduced water supply due to climate change in the Jordan basin has been considered sufficiently in restoration strategies. Demographic pressures produce acute water shortages which make the provision of future environmental flows highly unlikely. While much can and should be done to improve its environmental condition, the Jordan River offers a cautionary tale for water scarce regions about the challenge of stream restoration initiatives in the face of accelerated population growth, notwithstanding the potential benefits of desalination as a source of drinking water.

Tal, A., 2017, “Will Demography Defeat River Restoration? The Case of the Jordan River?” The Journal of Water Research. 111, 404-419.