Environment · Jordan

How to cope with water scarcity in Jordan

“Our Water situation forms a strategic
challenge that cannot be ignored. We
have to balance between drinking water
needs and industrial and irrigation water
requirements. Drinking water remains
the most essential and the highest
priority issue “.
H.M. King Abdullah II
November 7, 1999

This was even before the Syrian crisis when Jordan was among the world’s ten poorest countries in water resources. Now, with 1.5 million Syrians (half of them are refugees), Jordan is the world’s second poorest in water resources. The decline in water resources in Jordan is not due to the Syrian crisis only. There are other factors as well but Jordan is too poor in almost any natural resources to sustain what is happening in the Middle East in general, not just Syria.

Q: How do Jordanians go with their daily lives with such dryness?
A: Water tanks.


I) Municipal water  Continuity of supply: once a week. This water is safe to drink although most people don’t drink it since 1998 “after a major drinking water pollution outbreak occurred in Amman in the summer of 1998 due to a malfunction of the capital’s major drinking water treatment plant.” [source]

II) Private water companies  Since Jordanians don’t trust their tap water to be drinkable such companies flourished in Jordan. People here buy big bottled water from these companies.

bottled water
Jordanian households buy such big bottled drinkable water

III) Rain — Before water pipes, every house in Jordan has its underground water reservoir. This, thousand of years old, tradition still exist till this day and will continue to exist for many, many years to come.


Since households collect their municipal water once a week every house must have at least one water tank.

My parents have two water tanks for municipal water; one is connected to solar cells for heated water. Fortunately, the sun makes an appearance all year round.

2014-10-23 10.42.16 2014-10-23 10.41.50

Of course the main reason for water scarcity in Jordan is the law rainfall and it’s getting worse year after year. So, how Jordanian households collect rain? In Jordan, the top of the houses are flat.  On the roof, drainage is connected to an underground reservoir or a tank.

2014-10-23 10.42.35 2014-10-23 10.46.22
The roof of my parent’s house An underground water reservoir
2014-10-23 10.47.00 2014-10-23 10.47.49
Two more tanks my parents use for rain water storage


Because water is such scarcity there are behaviors that we got used to:

  1. When taking a shower we use a bucket to collect the cold water that comes before the hot water reaches the shower head. This bucket of water could be used to water plants or used to flush a toilet seat.
  2. Washing one’s car is done by a bucket of water and soap not hosing.
  3. Swimming pools almost don’t exist. Irbid, the second largest city in Jordan with a population of one million, has three swimming pools. All in the city’s sport center and swimming there is not free.
  4. Since people have a limited time to fill up their water tanks, every household owns a motor to increase the water pressure.


Nevertheless, Jordanians love to decorate their houses with indoor and outdoor plants. I don’t know why exactly. It is even common here for people to gift an indoor plant. Maybe, it is a sign of living and adapting amid an arid environment.

Below, are few pictures of our home garden.


IMG_20141019_215057 IMG_20141021_120512
An outdoor tree A lemon tree seen from the living room




4 thoughts on “How to cope with water scarcity in Jordan

  1. Unless a long-term view + collective effort are underway then soon we will have some multiple crises! 😦

    Some solution are offered but not moving forward. Basically, efforts on an individual basis are not sustainable solutions.


  2. Very interesting post! The usage section was especially interesting. I like the idea of collecting the shower water before the cold water turns to hot. Thanks for sharing!


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