Egypt’s Water Crisis and Degeneration of Nile

pollution-nileEgypt is struggling to cope with water shortages and food production. It is expected that Egypt’s per capita annual water supply will drop from 600 cubic meters today to 500 cubic meters by 2025, which is the UN threshold for absolute water scarcity. Egypt has only 20 cubic meters per person of internal renewable freshwater resources, and as a result the country relies heavily on the Nile for its main source of water. Water scarcity has become so severe that it has been recorded that certain areas in the country could go days without water, with pressure sometimes returning only for a few hours a week. The country can no longer delay action and must act now.


Agriculture contributes roughly 15% of Egypt’s GDP, and employs 32% of Egypt’s workforce with rice being the biggest produce in the country. Rice is an important part of an Egyptian family’s diet. However, the cultivation of rice is very water intensive. On average about 3000 liters of water is used to produce 1 kilo of rice. This number can vary depending on climate, soil type and water management practices.

The government has restricted cultivation of rice to an area of 1 million acres (farmers were previously able to use most of the Nile Delta for cultivation) in specified areas of the Nile Delta. The government has even resorted to taking drastic measures as spreading incendiary compounds on rice fields cultivated outside the area allocated by the government. This has caused outrage and demonstrations by farmers who insist that the area allocated is not enough for them to be able to make ends meet. This type of tension caused by the lack of water was one of the catalysts of the Arab Spring in 2011/2012.

To alleviate population tension and unrest the government has been trying to increase water supply by exploring with reusing treated agricultural and municipal wastewater for agriculture. However implementation of such initiatives is not being applied fast enough to cope with the rising demand. Government must enforce new irrigation methods in the country (Egyptian farmers still rely heavily on flood and canal irrigation in the Nile Delta) as well as smart agricultural practices such as using less water intensive crops. Resorting less water intensive water crops could drastically cut water used in agriculture and help increase water supply.

Pollution of the Nile

The Nile has been a lifeline for Egypt at least since the time of the pharaohs. Yet, despite the world’s largest river’s importance to the country, its water is being polluted by various sources, and pollution levels increasing exponentially in recent years.

The degeneration of the Nile is an issue that is regularly underestimated in Egypt. With so many people relying on the Nile for drinking, agricultural, and municipal use, the quality of that water should be of most importance. The waters are mainly being polluted by municipal and industrial waste, with many recorded incidents of leakage of wastewater, the dumping of dead animal carcasses, and the release of chemical and hazardous industrial waste into the Nile River.

Industrial waste has led to the presence of metals (especially heavy metals) in the water which pose a significant risk not only on human health, but also on animal health and agricultural production. Fish die in large numbers from poisoning because of the high levels of ammonia and lead. Agricultural production quality and quantity has been affected by using untreated water for irrigation as the bacteria and the metals in the water affect the growth of the plant produce, especially in the Nile Delta where pollution is highest.

Industrial pollution is wrecking havoc in Nile

Industrial pollution is wrecking havoc in Nile

Of course the pollution of Nile is a complex problem that has been continuing for more than 30 years and the government is trying to implement stricter rules on the quality and type of waste/wastewater dumped into the river to reduce the pollution of the Nile. However, swift and decisive action must be taken towards cleaning the Nile, such as treating the wastewater prior to disposal, and placing stricter restrictions on industries to dispose of their waste safely and responsibly. This issue cannot be ignored any further as the continual increase in population will cause an increase in demand on Egypt’s dwindling water resources. Every drop of water counts.

The Blue Nile Dam

Another challenge at hand is tackling the issue of Ethiopia building a dam and hydroelectric plant upstream that may cut into Egypt’s share of the Nile. For some time a major concern for Egypt was Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in the Blue Nile watershed, which is a main source of water for the Nile River. Construction of the Renaissance Dam started in December 2010, and has the capacity to store 74 to 79 billion cubic meters of water and generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity for Ethiopia a year. This creates major concern for Egypt, who is worried that this damn would decrease the amount of water it receives (55.5 billion cubic meters) from the Nile River. Egypt is concerned that during dry months, not enough water will be released from the GERD thus decreasing the water received downstream. This will greatly hinder Egypt’s attempts to alleviate the water shortages during those months.

Earlier this year, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan assigned two French companies to prepare a report on the impact of the dam on the three countries. This report will clarify the affects the Dam will have on downstream countries. The results of this report are yet to be released. 


In case of business-as-usual scenario, Egypt runs the risk of becoming an absolute water scarce country in less than a decade. Therefore Egypt has a battle on its hands to ensure adequate conditions for its population. Like many other water scarce countries around the world, it needs to mitigate water scarcity by implementing smart conservation techniques, adopting water saving technologies, and control water pollution. With climate conditions expected to get drier and heat waves expected to become more frequent in the MENA region, Egypt cannot afford to neglect its water conservation policies and must act immediately to meet the population’s water demand.


Sources of Information

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan

Water scarcity is a reality in Jordan, as the country is counted among the world’s most arid countries. The current per capita water supply in Jordan is 200m3 per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that per capita water availability will decline to measly 90m3 by the year 2025. Thus, it is of paramount importance to augment water supply in addition to sustainable use of available water resources.

Augmenting Water Supply

There are couple of options to increase alternative water supply sources in Jordan – desalination of seawater and recycling of wastewater. Desalination can provide a safe drinking water to areas facing severe water scarcity, and may also help in resolving the conflict between urban and agricultural water requirement needs by providing a new independent water source.

The other way to counter water scarcity in Jordan is by recycling and reuse of municipal wastewater which is an attractive method in terms of water savings. Infact, the reuse of the treated wastewater in Jordan has reached one of the highest levels in the world. The treated wastewater flow in the country is returned to the Search River and the King Talal dam, where it is mixed with the surface flow and used in the pressurized irrigation distribution system in the Jordan valley.

Another cheap and natural option for wastewater reuse is the construction of wetlands, and surface water reservoirs, which are water storage facilities that are able to collect and hold rain water for later use during dry seasons for irrigation or even for fish farming purposes. To prevent water loss by evaporation, reservoirs should be covered in a specific way to allow air to enter but with minimum evaporation rate. Another option is to install floating solar panels above the reservoir which will not only reduce the evaporation rate but also produce clean energy.

However, technology-based solutions are also raising several environmental and health concerns. Seawater desalination and wastewater treatment are like large-scale industrial projects which are capital-intensive, energy-intensive and generate waste in one form or the other. The desalination process may be detrimental to the marine ecological system as it increases the salinity of seawater.

Similarly, irrigation using recycled municipal wastewater is causing public health concerns. For example, directly consumed vegetables and fruits are excluded from allowable crops. Further studies should be conducted so as to address health issues that might arise from municipal wastewater usage. Effluent irrigation standards should be broadened to encompass a wider range of pathogens, and appropriate public health guidelines need to be established for wastewater irrigation taking into consideration the elimination of steroids.

New Trends

New intervention is needed to satisfy local irrigation demands; irrigation water for agriculture makes up the largest part of total average water used, which accounted for 64% during 2010. The main period of water stress is during summer due to high irrigation demand, and there is therefore a conflict arising between the supply of water for urban use and agricultural consumption. There has to be a proper combination between improvement of irrigation methods and selection of crop types. Application of updated water techniques, such as micro-sprinkling, drip irrigation and nocturnal, can reduce water loss and improve irrigation efficiency. Infrastructure improvement is also necessary to improving efficiency and reducing water loss.

Crop substitution is another interesting method to increase water efficiency by growing new crop types that tolerate saline, brackish, and low irrigation requirements. Such approach is not only economically viable, but also is socially beneficial and viable to mankind in an arid ecosystem. Mulching system is also highly recommended to reduce evaporative loss of soil moisture and improve microbial activities and nutrient availability. Farmers should use organic manure, instead of chemical fertilizers, to increase quality of water and reduce risk of groundwater contamination and agricultural run-offs.

The industrial sector uses about 5 percent of water resources in Jordan, while releasing harmful substances to the environment (including water). Industries have to put together a water management plan to reduce water intake and control water pollution. For instance, the establishment of a local wastewater treatment plant within a hotel for irrigation purposes is a good solution. Traditional solutions, like Qanats, Mawasi and fog harvesting, can also be a good tool in fighting water scarcity in arid areas.

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Waste Management in Jeddah

Jeddah, a major commercial hub in the Middle East, is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. Solid waste management is a big problem in Jeddah as the city’s population is increasing at a rapid pace and has now touched 3.5 million. More than 5,000 tons of solid waste is produced every day and Jeddah municipal authorities are finding it increasingly hard to cope with the problem of urban waste.

The management of solid waste in Jeddah begins with collection of wastes from bins scattered across residential and commercial areas. Wastes is collected and sent to transfer stations from where it ultimately goes to the dumping site. Most of the MSW is disposed in the landfill facility at Buraiman which receives approximately 1.5 million tons of waste per year and has an expected lifespan of between 30 and 40 years.

Buraiman or (Almusk) Lake, has been the dumping site of Jeddah's sewage wastewater for more than a decade. Wastewater accumulates in underground cesspools and then transported by truck tankers to the sewage lake. The lake lies in east of Jeddah within the catchment of Wadi Bani Malek at about 130m above mean sea level. It contains more than 10 million cubic meters of sewage water spread over an area of 2.88 km2.

The sewage lake has caused some wells in Jeddah to become poisoned due to raw sewage leaking into aquifers. Some studies have reported that water table under Jeddah is rising at 50cm per year which is attributed to the inflow of untreated sewage. As the only dumpsite for municipal sewage and industrial waste, Buraiman Lake is continuously increasing in size, constantly moving towards the south, and is now reported to be only three kilometres away from city houses.

The lake was created as a stopgap measure to deal with the increasing amounts of wastewater in the growing city. Jeddah's residents use an estimated 200 litres of water per capita per day. The lake was to be used for depositing this water until a functioning sewage system was created. But plans were delayed because of inadequate funding. As 70 percent of Jeddah households are not connected to sewerage pipelines, wastewater accumulates in underground cesspools and later transported by lorries to Buraiman Lake.

About 50,000 cubic metres of water are transported to the 2.5 million square-metre lake each day. Only a small percentage of the waste water from the remaining 30 per cent of Jeddah households goes to treatment plants for purification before being dumped in the Red Sea. Most of the waste water that is accumulated through pipes is dumped directly into the sea without purification.

Keeping in view the prevalent waste management scenario, Jeddah municipality is continuously seeking ways to develop city’s sewage treatment infrastructure. However, the current infrastructure is incapable of handling the present generation of raw sewage, leading to the continued storing untreated sewage at Buraiman Lake and dumping the remaining portion directly into the Red Sea. 

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Sustainable Agriculture: Perspectives for Jordan Valley

agriculture-palestineSustainable agriculture development is one of the most important pillars of the EcoPeace Middle East's Jordan Valley Master Plan as it provides livelihood and prosperity for all the people in the valley. The strategic agricultural objective for the study area is improving water use and irrigation efficiencies and economic outputs per unit of water used, and meanwhile stabilize, or even reduce the total water demands for the agricultural sector in the Jordan Valley. This will require adequate tariff policies on water used for irrigation, including enforcement, to stimulate more efficient use of water through for instance greenhouse drip irrigation. These are challenges specifically relevant for Jordan and Palestine.

Greenhouses are a very effective manner to improve water efficiencies and economic outputs in the agricultural sector, using greenhouses reduce the production related risks, provide for better quality crops and provide wider options for crop diversification. Finally, evapotranspiration from greenhouses is substantially less than from open field agriculture (and it does not cause soil salinity). However, greenhouses decrease open spaces, with negative visual impacts to rural landscapes and to wildlife corridors. Hence greenhouse development needs to be carefully planned and many farmers would require adequate and reliable micro-credits in order to invest in greenhouses.

Drip irrigation is another effective manner to improve water efficiencies in the open fields. The challenge is to set up sustainable drip irrigation systems in the Jordan Valley, including appropriate operations and maintenance and monitoring systems. This requires also financial facilities for farmers to invest, standardization of designs and manufacturing and provision of technical support services.

A related challenge is to maximize the reuse of treated wastewater, efficient use of pesticides and fertilizers, introduction or expansion of growing high yield crops, and improving extension services and post harvesting support to the farmers to enable them to create higher economic returns.

Pollution and mismanagement has severely damaged the Jordan River

Pollution and mismanagement has severely damaged the Jordan River

Another major challenge is to address the negative environmental impacts associated with the fish farms. These farms consume substantial amounts of water, due to high evaporation rates, which may be as much as 1-2 meter of water per year. In addition the ponds are flushed once or twice per year, releasing water into the Jordan River, which is polluted with excrements from the fishes, and anti-biotic medications that have to be added to the fish ponds. Due to the evaporation, the effluent is usually brackish as well. Consequently, discharging this wastewater into the environment has substantial impacts to surface water and groundwater quality.

Mitigating these impacts require investments in wastewater treatment facilities, and converting the process to a closed system. Without resolving these issues the future of this industry in the valley must be in doubt, despite any ecological benefits that the fish farms present for bird migration and associated tourism related to bird watching. The master plan sees the need to ensure that those communities relying currently on the fish ponds as their main source of income enjoy stability and that they be supported in the effort to move to closed systems.

A related challenge will be to strengthen the Extension Services for the farmers in the Jordan Valley. These services might be provided through the existing water user associations. In terms of rural economics, an important challenge is to improve the post-harvesting and marketing potentials of the farmers in the Jordan Valley, including setting up product organizations, better information about markets (nationally and internationally) and related product requirements and creating better access to export markets, with particular focus on eco-friendly and sustainable production techniques, regional labeling and fair-trade related markets.

Note: This is the third article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley.

Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation in Jordan Valley

jordan-riverIn the context of EcoPeace Middle East's recently released Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan, the key challenge in sustainable water management is to overcome the water scarcity related problems  in the Jordan Valley. This means creating a sustainable water supply system that meets the current and future domestic and agricultural water demands; and at the same time preserves the water resources for future generations and for the environment. This requires an Integrated Water Resources Management regime for the whole (Lower) Jordan River, based on international co-operation among Israel, Jordan and Palestine, supported with adequate water management tools (like WEAP) to ensure sustainable water supply and an increase of the baseflow and rehabilitation of the ecological values of the Jordan River.

One of the related key challenges is to achieve full treatment of wastewater generated in the study area and full reuse for agricultural purposes. This will both reduce public health related risks and strengthen the agricultural sector. This requires development of a detailed technical and financial plan, including designs and tender documents, for full scale collection, treatment and reuse of the locally generated wastewater flows, including domestic, industrial (mainly oliveoil wastewater in Jordan) and manure management.

Another key challenge is to restore the function of the lower part of the Jordan River as a natural river and water conveyor in the valley for supply purposes, by keeping its flow as long as possible in the river. Rehabilitating the river will include actions in terms of realizing at least one minor flood (c.a. 20-50 m3/sec) per year. In order to bring back the original habitats of the river, also the flow bed of the river are to be widened to about 50-70 m in the north and at least 30 m in the south, with flood plains on both sides.

The salinity of the Jordan River has a natural tendency to increase downstream. This is caused by natural drainage of brackish groundwater into the river, particularly in the southern part of the valley near the Dead Sea. The key challenge is to prevent any inflow of salt or brackish surface water into the river above the point where the river would still be fresh, i.e. above the confluent with Wadi Qelt. This implies bypassing the salt water from the Israeli Saline Water Carrier (SWC), the brackish water from the Israeli Fish Ponds, and the brine from the Abu Zeighan desalination plant to a new outflow located south of the river’s confluent with Wadi Qelt, close to the Dead Sea. If this will be done, the river will be able to provide water of good quality for different user functions. In terms of chloride concentrations this means a maximum of 400 mg/l for drinking water purposes; 600 mg/l for fresh water irrigation; and 1500 mg/l for irrigation of date palms.

An olive oil mill in Jordan

An olive oil mill in Jordan

Another key challenge is to maintain total agricultural water demands at the same level as today, with the exception of Palestine which is currently heavily underdeveloped in terms of agriculture. To achieve a sustainable water balance within the valley and sufficient flows in the river it will furthermore be required that around 2020 Israel will largely cease pumping water to the extent possible out of the valley from the Sea of Galilee through the National Water Carrier (NWC), meanwhile maintaining its present agricultural water consumption within the valley; that the Sea of Galilee will be kept on a medium water level between the top and bottom red lines ("green line" as defined by the Israeli Water Authority); and that by 2050 Jordan will stop diverting water from the Yarmouk and other tributaries to the Kind Abdullah Canal (KAC) to the extent possible, and instead will use the Jordan River as main conveyor for its irrigation supply purposes. In addition, by 2050 Palestine would also use the Jordan River as its main water conveyor, meaning that the planned development of the West Ghor Canal will not be built.

These challenges require a series of related interventions, including adequate water data monitoring and modeling; promotion of water saving and water demand management measures in all sectors; provision of related training and institutional strengthening support services; improved regulations and enforcement on groundwater abstractions to stop groundwater depletion and salination; and implementation of efficient water pricing policies and related enforcement.

In terms of water governance, the challenge will be to strengthen the authorities, including JVA, PWA, in their role as regulator of the water sector in the Jordan Valley. This includes skills with regard to water data collection and management; water resources planning; efficient operations of the water storage and supply system; and strengthening the co-operation with the local water user associations. It also includes monitoring, regulations and enforcement of surface water and groundwater abstractions; protection of sensitive shallow aquifers, efficient tariff policies, and monitoring reduction of agricultural pollution loads.

Note: This is the second article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley'. 

Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley

jordan-valleyEcoPeace Middle East is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region. EcoPeace has offices in Amman, Bethlehem, and Tel-Aviv. EcoPeace is a project oriented NGO, using both a “top-down” (advocacy) approach coupled with a “bottom-up” (grass roots / community) strategy that has proven to be a very effective work model.

Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan

EcoPeace Middle East recently launched the "Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley", from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. Akin to a Marshal Plan, this plan aims to convert a polluted river and highly depressed economic area to a model for river rehabilitation, economic growth, and regional stability.

127 specific regional and national projects ("interventions") have been identified in the framework of the Master Plan, with a total investment value of 4.58 billion USD until the year 2050. The interventions are grouped around 7 strategic planning objectives: Pollution Control, Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation, Sustainable Agriculture, Jordan River Basin Governance, Ecological Rehabilitation, Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development, and Urban and Infrastructure Development.

Strategic Planning Objectives

The key development challenge facing the NGO Master Plan is to strike the right developmental balance between a healthy economic developmental path for the valley and its people on the one hand, and a Jordan River with sufficient environmental flows to sustain a healthy ecosystem on the other hand. To meet this objective there is a need to ensure that the river serves as a natural water conveyor and source for water supply for residents in and outside the valley. Creative solutions are therefore needed to provide sufficient water to supply the projected water requirements of both people and nature. A prerequisite for peace and prosperity is the equitable sharing of water resources and public access to lands and the riverbanks for all riparian nationalities within an appropriate security framework.  

The key strategic planning objectives that would promote sustainable development for the trans-boundary NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley have been identified as 

  1. Pollution Control and Sanitation
  2. Sustainable Water Management and River Rehabilitation
  3. Sustainable Agriculture
  4. Jordan Valley Governance
  5. Ecological Rehabilitation
  6. Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage Development
  7. Sustainable Urban, Energy and Infrastructure Development

Pollution Control and Sanitation

The objective in terms of pollution control and sanitation is to eliminate all sources of environmental pollution in the Jordan Valley by 2025. This requires full and adequate treatment and reuse of all wastewater flows in the valley and to embark on fully integrated solid waste management, including:

  • (separate) waste collection,
  • transportation;
  • transfer;
  • reuse and recycling of solid waste streams;
  • selection, planning, design and construction of a sanitary landfill;
  • closing of existing non-sanitary dump sites;
  • development of composting facilities;
  • Based on the polluter – pays – principle and progressive taxation for heavy consumers.

The situation today in terms of sanitation and wastewater treatment in Jordan and Palestine is poor. This impacts the public health, as well as the possibilities to use the water resources for economic development. The challenge is to reach a situation where generated wastewater is collected, treated and reused for agricultural purposes, or to introduce better functioning sanitation systems using substantially smaller amounts of water, such as vacuum removal of toilet effluents, or electric incinerating toilets. In any case, localized solutions are preferred, avoiding the use of extensive sewer systems throughout the Jordan Valley. 


In terms of environmental management, the challenge will be to implement integrated environmental management systems throughout the valley, including monitoring, enforcement and public awareness on wastewater and solid waste management, also focused on non-pollution sources; groundwater protection; water quality management; soil quality and air quality. Land preservation, groundwater protection zoning and problems related to overgrazing are to be addressed adequately.

Sustainable environmental management also requires adequate tools, such as dedicated impact assessment tools and Strategic Environmental Assessments to test new policies and strategies related to the Jordan Valley. In addition, environmental management in the valley requires enhancing water and environmental awareness of all communities, schools and municipalities in the valley, and implementing environmental standards instance according to the ISO norms 14000 and 14001. In terms of agricultural environmental management the challenge is to assist farmers in applying sustainable agronomic practices, including regulation of the use of pesticides and fertilizers and promotion of environmentally sustainable substances. This will support farmers in reaching international agricultural export and import standards.

Note: This is the first article in our special series on 'Regional Integrated NGO Master Plan for the Jordan Valley'

Water Woes in Jordan

Being one of the most arid countries in the Middle East, Jordan is facing severe water shortages. The current per capita water supply in the country is 200 cubic meters per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that Jordan’s population (currently at 6 million) will reach 9 million by 2025 causing a drastic decline in per capita water availability to measly 91 cubic meters.

State of the Affairs

Groundwater resources account for 54% of Jordan’s total water supply, and are being threatened by pollution due to over-pumping of aquifers, seepage from landfill sites, and improper disposal of dangerous chemicals. Agricultural sector is responsible for about two-third of Jordan’s total water consumption. Jordan is currently ranked among the top five countries most threatened by water shortages. More than 75 percent of the population lives in cities which are often located away from water bodies.

Management of water resources is therefore a big challenge for the Jordanian government which has been trying to reduce the rising demand for water through public awareness campaigns. A large fraction of freshwater supplies is contributed by aquifers which are threatened by overpumping and pollution. Managing the supply as well as the demand end of water resources has assumed tremendous importance in the country.

Future Strategy

The government may start water supply management initiative by enforcing regulation on water extraction from groundwater aquifers. The absence of strict laws is leading to illegal well drilling, reckless use of water and unsustainable extraction of water from aquifers. Aquifers in Jordan are being used at twice the recharge rate which is hampering natural replenishment process and may eventually lead to drying up.

The Jordanian government may also take initiative in renovating old and rusted water pipes that supply private homes with domestic water supplies. For example, in the United States alone, water leaks are responsible for wastage of 1 trillion gallons of water every year, which is equivalent to the annual water usage of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami combined. Furthermore, rusted pipes can cause a change in the color and taste of the water, triggering additional water loss through the disposal of dirty water. Therefore, repairing old water pipes, and replacing them after 2-3 decades is very important.

A key component of water supply management is utilizing alternative sources of water such as wastewater treatment plants, which allow reuse of wastewater. This not only creates an additional water supply source, but also reduces the reliance on the natural water supplies, such as ground water, giving aquifers more time to replenish and recharge. Importantly, wastewater treatment is a potential source of energy, through harnessing the methane produced by the sewage water.

Furthermore, wastewater treatment plants reduce environmental pollution by extracting wastewater that is usually disposed off into rivers and aquifers in the form of runoffs. The government has been planning to build wastewater treatment plants across Jordan, such as the Amman-Zarqa wastewater treatment plant. However, these plants have yet to be built, and Jordan has yet to use wastewater treatment to its full potential.


Water shortage has significantly increased stress on water resources in Jordan. Aquifers have reached historically low levels, water demand is rising exponentially, water pollution is rising and mismanagement of water resources continues unabated. Water scarcity is a big threat to Jordan’s industrial development, economic growth, food production and overall well-being of its population. Jordan has already been forced to tap into non-renewable water resources from fossilized deep-water aquifers. The government and citizens should work together to find a plausible solution to tackle the water scarcity plaguing the country.

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Future Water Scenarios in GCC

Water is an important vector in the socio-economic development and for supporting the ecosystem. In the arid to extremely arid Arabian Peninsula, home of the GCC countries, the importance and value of water is even more pronounced. The GCC countries of United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait, are facing the most severe water shortages in the world.  Rainfall scarcity and variability coupled with high evaporation rates have characterized this part of the world with a limited availability of renewable water.  However, the scarcity of renewable water resources is not the only distinctive characteristic of the region, inadequate levels of management and the continuous deterioration of its natural water resources have become during the past few decades equally distinguishing features as well.

Clamour for Water

In the last four decades, rapid population growth and accelerated socio-economic development in the GCC countries were associated with a substantial increase in water demands, which have escalated from about 6 Billion cubic meters (Bcm) in 1980 to about 30 Bcm in 2010.  These demands have been driven mainly by the agricultural sector consumption (currently (2012) consumes about 77% of total water used), and by rapid population and urban expansion (18%).  

To meet rising demands, water authorities have focused their efforts mainly on the development and supply augmentation aspects of water resources management.  Demands are being satisfied by the development of groundwater (83%), extensive installation of desalination plants (15%), expansion in wastewater treatment and reuse (2%), in addition to dams construction to collect, store, and utilize runoff.  Currently, groundwater resources are being over-exploited to meet mainly agricultural water demands, with continuous deterioration in quantity and quality. In most of the countries, unplanned groundwater mining continues without a clear “exit” strategy. To meet domestic water supply requirement, GCC countries have turned to desalination and have become collectively the world leaders in desalination, with more than 50% of the world capacity.  However, desalination remains an important technology, capital intensive and costly, and with negative environmental impacts.  In terms of wastewater recycling, available treated wastewaters are still not being reused to their potential; planning for full utilization of treated effluent are in the early stages.

In fact, the supply augmentation approach coupled with inadequate attention to improving and maximizing the efficiency of water allocation and water use have led to the emergence of a number of unsustainable water uses in these countries, such as low water use efficiency, growing of both water demands and per capita water use, increasing cost of water production and distribution, and deterioration of water quality as well as land productivity.  The situation was further aggravated by the lack of comprehensive long-term water policies and strategies that are based on supply-demand considerations, and was further compounded by the institutional weaknesses, multiplication and overlap of water agencies, and inadequate institutional capacity development and enabled participating society. 

The Way Forward

Fortunately, all the GCC countries have realized that efficient development and management of water resources requires water policy reforms, with emphasis on supply and demand management measures and improvement of the legal and institutional provisions. In essence, appropriate water sector policy reform need to address the key issues of reliable assessment of water supply and demand, water quality deterioration and protection, water use efficiency and allocation, role of the private sector, pricing policies and cost recovery, groundwater mining, stakeholder participation, improved institutional support, food security and the increasing problem of water scarcity. Water policy reform needs to address these key issues, taking into consideration the specific requirements and the prevailing social, economic, and cultural conditions of the GCC countries. 

Furthermore, addressing the immense challenges associated with water resources management in the GCC countries requires daring reforms to existing institutions and policies governing water resources. Far-reaching and multi-sectoral approaches will be critical if we are to overcome inefficient use of water resources and make their use sustainable.

However, the most important choices affecting water resources, as well as the environment, in the future are not necessarily water/environment sector choices; achieving water/environmental sustainability relies on a multitude of potential interventions and developments, such as changing governance approach, the education system, the implementation of technological innovations, changing the behavior of people, in addition to many other socio-economic policies. Moreover, water and environmental policies should not be compartmentalized, and they should be integrated and mainstreamed into the national socio-economic development plans. 

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Framework for IWRM: An Islamic Perspective

The Islamic perspective on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) framework provides a holistic approach to look at the entire spectrum of water management components, i.e, water resources, uses, treatment and resue. Islam provides policies and principles that address all elements of the framework for Integrated Water Resources Management. At the resource level, Islam teaches that the Universe and humans are created by God. And the source of water is from God, the creator, however, Islam believes in the rational and pragmatic explanations of science. The first verse in Quran is “Read” and there are many references in Quran that urge humans to think and contemplate about the universe, nature and the creation of God. Islam teaches that “everything is created from water” and that water at the global level is finite “bekadar” and is in balance and “mawzoon”.  

Harmony between Human and Nature

The key characteristic of Islam is the belief in one God (Allah) and the belief in the Day of Judgment (Hereafter). These are the core of the social and environmental responsibility for both individuals and the corporate sector. The relationship between the Human and Nature is based on harmony, since all creatures obey the laws (sunan) of God.  Harmonization of human’s will with the teachings of Islam leads to responsible, balanced and good life (Hayat Tayebah).  Being mindful of the purpose and meaning of every single human endeavor, every human activity is given a transcendent dimension; it becomes meaningful, of value, and goal-centered.

The Islamic worldview is based on an eco-cosmic understanding of the harmony between human and nature and the value of nurturing the aesthetic and natural intelligence of humans as trustees. The Islamic notion of Zohd which means living lightly on earth and having low ecological footprints is a key for securing a healthy planet. All forms of environmental problems like pollution and global warming and climate change according to the Islamic interpretation is attributed to human mis-conduct or mischief (Fassad).

Islamic IWRM Framework

At the water uses level, Islam believes that water should be allocated to different uses with priority to water for drinking (Haqo Al-shafa). Besides, Islam recognizes the right for environment. The emphasis on balance, conservation and harmony is key to the Islamic view of water uses.


For wastewater, greywater and saline water, Islam instructs the mind that regardless of the quality of water whether it is fresh “Athb” or saline water “Milh Ujaj” but still it can of use and value for many purposes like a source for food from sea, a source for jewelry “diamonds” and a means for shipping, trade and transport. By interpretation and using the notion of  public interest “Maslaha”, it is safe to say that greywater and waste water can be of use and value for human use if treated with proper processes. This was confirmed by a judgment and ruling “Fatwa” by scholars from different disciplines who confirmed that wastewater can be used for human used if treated properly.  The Fatwa issued in 1978 by the Council of Leading Islamic Scholars (CLIS) in Saudi Arabia postulated that:

Impure waste water can be considered as pure water and similar to the original pure water, if its treatment using advanced technical procedures is capable of removing impurities with regard to taste, colour and smell, as witnessed by honest, specialized and knowledgeable experts. Then it can be used to remove body impurities and for purifying, even for drinking.

For wastewater re-use, it was evident from the above Fatwa that wastewater can be used for other purposes. Hence, the Islamic model of IWRM adopted a closed loop of  IWRM framework. Islam does not allow waste among even lifeless things, to the extent that it disapproves the wasteful use of water, even if there is no scarcity of water.  It teaches to avoid waste in every conceivable form and to make the best use of all resources. Islam reforms the notion of  “waste” and enlighten the human mind to re-think the concept of waste by learning from nature and the ecological processes. The analogy of human life is being made with the ecology and its transformations (the four seasons and the process of renewal and growth using natural energy and resources). Moreover, the Fatwa made scholars in Saudi Arabia paved the way to make waste water reuse possible and to have a closed water loop in IWRM model.


Islam is not limited to the confined domain of a religion and spirituality (relation between man and God) but rather it is a way of life. Islam offers a holistic framework for looking at the cosmos, nature and the purpose and the role of the human being.  Besides, Islam nowadays has contextualized a number of economic institutions (Islamic banking and Waqf funds) and social institutions (health care, education).  It would be of value to develop a new framework and contextualize for Islamic IWRM. This means that IWRM will not only be informed by culture and local knowledge but also reformed and transformed by Islam through a process of re-construction of knowledge and the revival of the human consciousness. 

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Water Pollution Worries in Developing World

Water pollution has become a major concern worldwide, especially in developing countries where around 3.2 million children die each year as a result of unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. Access to adequate wastewater treatment facilities in the developing countries is very limited. For example, only 209 of India's 3,119 towns and cities—less than one in ten—have even partial sewage systems and treatment facilities. As a result water bodies in developing nations are often used as open sewers for human waste products and garbage, which is evident at the Ganges River in India which receives over 1.3 billion liters of domestic waste, along with 260 million liters of industrial waste, run off from 6 million tons of fertilizers and 9,000 tons of pesticides used in agriculture, and thousands of animal carcasses.

The reason behind the absence of adequate water treatment facilities and regulations in developing countries is the lack of finances available for funding infrastructure that can regulate water pollution. This in turn reduces the amount of clean water available for human consumption, sanitation, agriculture and industrial purposes, in addition to various other ecosystem services. A decrease in the amount water available for use holds devastating environmental, health, and economic consequences that disrupt a country’s social and economic growth.

Environmental and Human Health Costs

Unsafe water, lack of sanitation facilities and poor hygiene are the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in developing countries because contaminated water carries various diseases such as cholera, intestinal worms, and diarrhea. It is estimated that up to half of all hospital beds in the world are occupied by victims of water contamination. Furthermore, Dirty water (standing in puddles or stored) provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that go on to spread diseases such as malaria and encephalitis.  The UN estimates that 60% of global cases of malaria and 80% of malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa (nearly 1 million per year) are related to inadequate water storage facilities.

Economic Implications

It is estimated that around $7.3million is spent on healthcare for waterborne diseases alone.  Furthermore, large amounts of money are lost due to the deteriorating health of a country’s population with many citizens unable to attend school or work due to health issues. Above all, water pollution and lack of sanitation holds a significant burden on women. Teenage women are unable to attend schools that lack adequate sanitation and are often entrusted in collecting water for their families due to the lack of a constant water supply. Women embark on 3-4 hour treks in order to collect contaminated water, which they carry back to their homes. This deprives them from the possibility of attending school or holding a permanent job thus further reducing a family’s income.

Water quality is also important for various industries (such as power generation, metals, mining, and petroleum) that require high-quality water to operate. Lower quality water could impact and limit the choices of technology available to developing countries. Reductions in water quality have the dual effect of not only increasing the water stress to industrial companies in these areas but also increase the pressure to improve the quality of the industrial wastewater. This in turn increases the costs spent on environmental rehabilitation and remediation.

Tackling the Challenge

Water quality is gradually becoming the leading problem throughout the developing world. Drinking water sources are under increasing threat from contamination, which holds widespread consequences for the health, and the economic and social development of various countries. Governments in the developing nations, as well as donor nations and organizations, should strengthen efforts to provide adequate water services for their citizens. Water policies must be redefined and be strictly implemented, and water programs should be better integrated into a country’s cultures and values than they have been in the past. Water programs are not required to be large scale and financially intensive, and can be simple and financially viable.

An example of such a program is’s use of the “micro loans” system. This system entails providing micro loans to local families to allow them to build adequate piping systems and sanitation facilities within their homes. This will allow for an increase in the family’s income due to better health and less time spent on water collection. If the governments of developing countries adopt such a system, it will provide them with a simple yet efficient solution to thewater pollution dilemma that will also produce massive payback for the country.

Therefore it is evident that although water pollution can be lessened through the help of donor nations and organizations, the key to addressing these issues lies within the developing countries themselves. Governments must realize that action must be taken immediately because if water pollution continues to grow, the future will be very bleak.

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Oman’s Largest Environment and Waste Management Conference and Exhibition

OWES-EcoMENA_200x200pxOman’s largest environmental and waste management expo and conference, OWES, is scheduled to take place during 23 – 25 May 2016 at the Oman Exhibition Center. The event is supported by reputed local and international regional entities like Be’ah, Haya, PAEW, and EcoMENA. OWES brings together policy-makers, domain experts, engineers, technology companies, scientists, researchers, students, entrepreneurs, equipment suppliers and other professionals on a single platform to discuss environmental challenges in Oman and explore plausible solutions.

OWES strives to focus on all aspects of environmental and waste management sector in Oman. Infact, the exhibition, technical sessions, panel discussions have been designed to address major environmental challenges in Oman, including but not limited to solid waste management, industrial waste management, sewage, air pollution, water pollution, ecological degradation, green buildings, climate change, environmental management and environmental awareness.

OWES will highlight the environmental impacts of refineries and petrochemical industries of Oman and will provide environmental compliance solutions and procedures for such facilities. More than 100 top environmental specialists from different parts of the world are expected to participate, providing an excellent opportunity for peer networking, knowledge-sharing and brainstorming.

OWES will provide stakeholder, including policy-makers, investors, public sector as well as private sector, a perfect venue for dialogue to exchange experiences on how to best improve Oman’s environmental and waste management capabilities.

The exhibition will serve as a solid platform to showcase the latest products in environmental monitoring, industrial pollution abatement, solid waste management, hazardous waste management, recycling, waste-to-energy, green buildings, wastewater treatment and related areas, thus emerging as a key environmental sourcing hub for the entire GCC.

The event is being officially supported and endorsed by EcoMENA, one of the most popular names in MENA's environmental and waste management sector. Please visit for more information. 

For enquiries related to sponsorships, stand booking, speaking opportunities, delegate registrations etc, please call Mr. Indrajeet Kumar on +968-246 601 24 or email on or or

Waste Management in Gaza Strip

Solid waste management in Gaza Strip is a matter of grave concern. With population of approximately 1.75 million, waste management is one of the most serious challenges confronting the local authorities because of high volumes of solid waste generation and economic blockade by Israel. The daily solid waste generation across Gaza is more than 1300 tons which is characterized by per capita waste generation of 0.35 to 1.0 kg.

Scarcity of waste disposal sites coupled with huge increase in waste generation is leading to serious environmental and human health impacts on the population. The severity of the crisis is a direct consequence of continuing blockade by Israeli Occupation Forces and lack of financial assistance from international donor.

Israeli Occupation Forces deliberately destroyed most of the sewage infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, during 2008-2009 Gaza War inflicting heavy damage to sewage pipes, water tanks, wastewater treatment plants etc. Infact, Israeli forces, time and again, target Gaza's infrastructure and inflict heavy damage during repeated incursions in the Gaza Strip. 

Landfills in Gaza

There are three landfills in Gaza Strip – one each in southern and central part of Gaza and one in Gaza governorate. In addition, there are numerous unregulated dumpsites scattered across rural and urban areas which are not fenced, lined or monitored. Domestic, industrial and medical wastes are often dumped near cities and villages or burned and disposed of in unregulated disposal sites which cause soil, air and water pollution, leading to health hazards and ecological damage. The physical damage caused to Gaza’s infrastructure by repeated Israeli aggression has been a major deterred in putting forward a workable solid waste management strategy in the Strip.

Sewage Disposal Problems

The sewage disposal problem is assuming alarming proportions. The Gaza Strip’s sewage service networks cover most areas, except for Khan Yunis and its eastern villages where only 40% of the governorate is covered. There are only three sewage water treatment stations in Gaza Strip – in Beit Lahia, Gaza city and Rafah – which are unable to cope with the increasing population growth rate.

The total quantity of produced sewage water is estimated at 45 million m3 per annum, in addition to 3000 cubic meters of raw sewage water discharged from Gaza Strip directly into the sea every day. Sewage water discharge points are concentrated on the beaches of Gaza city, Al Shate' refugee camp and Deir El Balah.

Raw Sewage on a Gaza beach

The continuous discharge of highly contaminated sewage water from Gaza Strip in the Mediterranean shores is causing considerable damage to marine life in the area. The beaches of Gaza city are highly polluted by raw sewage. In addition, groundwater composition in Gaza Strip is marked by high salinity and nitrate content which may be attributed to unregulated disposal of solid and liquid wastes from domestic, industrial and agricultural sources.

Recently, the ongoing electricity and fuel shortage caused sewage from Gaza City wastewater treatment plant to overflow into residential areas causing a grave humanitarian and environmental crisis. Several more sewage stations across the Gaza Strip are on the verge of overflowing which could be disastrous from the entire region. The prevalent waste management scenario demands immediate intervention of international donors, environmental agencies and regional governments in order to prevent the situation from assuming catastrophic proportions.

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