The problem is clear. To address it the government has been working with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to find effective ways to deal with the challenge. ‘The two major supplies of water to the country come from the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers, but these are barely enough to support the population,’ says James Franckiewicz, director of the office of water resources and environment at USAID in Jordan. ‘Jordanians have stretched water resources as far as they can, but most people are still reliant on water deliveries two days a week.’

The short-term solution for Amman is to make the best of what it has. Promoting the re-use of reclaimed water, reducing system leakages and increasing the efficiency of water use are solutions that have all been adopted.

Reuse means using either treated wastewater or reclaimed water for irrigation, urban developments such as fountains or man-made lakes, emergency services, sanitation or industrial use. It cannot be used for potable water supply. It is a cheaper technique to use than finding new, scarce water resources as exploration, conveyance and pumping costs are expensive.

‘Selling the idea of reuse took time,’ says Franckiewicz. ‘Four years ago people stuck their noses up at the idea. But, as the economic gains became clearer, it has been easier to get people on board.’

A small pilot project at Wadi Musa near Petra highlights how the agency is selling the idea. The demonstration farm is being managed by the UK-based PA Consulting Group in co-operation with the Water & Irrigation Ministry and USAID. The project uses wastewater from the Petra regional wastewater treatment plant to irrigate crops of alfalfa, maize, sunflowers, pistachio and almond trees. The farm has managed to sustain a cottage industry of cut flowers that are distributed to several hotels in Petra.

Treatment

A far larger project is the $169 million scheme to expand the Kherbet al-Samra wastewater treatment plant in Zarqa. In May, 25 per cent of the construction work had been completed. The aim is to free up the potable water currently being used for agricultural and industrial purposes. The plan is to increase the plant’s capacity from 68,000 cubic metres a day (cm/d) to 268,000 cm/d, roughly equivalent to 80 per cent of the country’s wastewater needs, serving 2.5 million inhabitants of the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM).

The ease of reuse is in stark contrast to other water projects the government is pursuing. The proposed $400 million Disi water project would involve construction of a pipeline to supply Amman with 100 million cm/y of drinking water from the Disi aquifer in the south, near the border with Saudi Arabia. Work on the pipeline would include drilling 65 production wells and building a collector tank, pumping stations and a terminal reservoir for the Disi-Amman pipeline.

Debates on the type of contract to offer have led to the original build-operate-transfer (BOT) tender switching to an engineering procurement and construction (EPC) model for the project. It is understood the government will contribute at least $200 million, with a further $250 million to be raised on the international bond market. But such a high-quality fossil aquifer cannot be replenished, and Amman will also have to share it with its Saudi