An Ecological Model for Wadi Arabah

The Wadi Arabah region is an extremely arid valley in Jordan characterized by hot climate, meager annual rainfall, high evaporation rate and limited water resources. The arid desert creates several challenges to extracting and managing water in this region thus hampering the development of agricultural, domestic, and industrial sectors in the valley. The casual attitude towards water management in the region highlights the need for additional consideration to the hydrological and geographical realities of the area.


Agriculture accounts for the largest water consumption, especially in summer. In arid land with high evaporation rates, negative agricultural practices may lead to reduced soil fertility, damage to the ecosystem, increased runoff, and contamination of groundwater and surface water sources. Extensive water storage, transfer systems and innovative irrigation practices should be established to allowed crop production and expansion in Wadi Arabah.

In Jordan, only 5% of the rainwater infiltrates into the groundwater bodies, while 90% of annual rainfall is lost to evaporation. Thus rainwater harvesting is a good option despite low annual rainfall. Groundwater aquifers may be used to provide water for irrigation sector, though preliminary treatment may be necessary to remove Fe, Mg and other salts.

Wadi Arabah can be transformed into an agricultural settlement by establishing farms through the production of drought-tolerant forages. Agriculture in the region should concentrate on low-volume irrigation systems like micro-sprinkling or drip irrigation. Crops can be developed to meet the needs of local communities as well as to protect the limited water and soil resources and surrounding ecosystems. Arabah saline water can be used to irrigate saline-tolerable crops or develop wetlands.

A sustainable agricultural system is aimed at reducing the dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. To achieve this, the dual-level organic agriculture, similar to that in early Islamic period, should be considered where fruit trees are used to limit evaporation rates, make shade, and reduce the pollution that leaches into groundwater.

Raising goats and camels, rather than other animals, can also be a good way to conserve water in Wadi Arabah. For example, the black desert goat raised by the Sinai Bedouin shepherds can survive without water for four days, which is a big advantage over sheep and cows.

Large-scale investments in modern water management technologies are an urgent need of the hour. Competition between different sectors can lead to deterioration in water resources so it is important to develop a water use plan. A concerted move towards industrial sustainability can ensure that water is used efficiently and recycled wastewater is put to good uses.

It is well-understood that cost of implementing sustainable water management system is much lower than those of repairing the damage caused by improper planning and implementation. In the face of these challenges, all stakeholders must work together to find solutions to the water problems faced by Wadi Arabah in form of climate change, water scarcity and industrial pollution. Environmental education, stakeholders’ participation, corporate guidance and government incentives are necessary to ensure sustainable development of Wadi Arabah.

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About Nura A. Abboud

Nura A. Abboud is an environmental activist and Founder of the Jordanian Society for Microbial Biodiversity (JMB), the only NGO in the Middle East concerning the microbial biodiversity. Nura specializes in molecular biology, biological sciences, microbial biodiversity, genetic fingerprinting and medical technologies. Her vision is to establish an eco-research center in the astonishing desert south of Jordan. She has received several scholarships and awards including honorary doctorate in Environmental leadership.

3 Responses to An Ecological Model for Wadi Arabah

  1. jon says:

    there are some companies that produce the fertilizers which nourish the soil in sustainable agricultural system Some agricultural plants would help to decrease such a huge evaporation level

  2. Basel Buragn says:

    Anything but the Red-Dead canal project

  3. Gene Thomas Lang says:

    There are some alternative methods you maybe be interested in. I am developing three nonconventional methods to increase the water cycle here at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas. The University has a couple of programs I am participating in, they are the Go Create where we have to create our individual projects and E Launch for individuals wishing to start our business ventures. My business plan is to Rehabilitate the drought regions of North Africa as a solution to Climate Change. Please read the Green Sahara, National Geographic Magazine, Sept 08. The region was not always a desert as many people think.
    Though this would not be possible with conventional means I believe a different approach should be examined. I hope to discuss this in a more diffinative manner as tweeter is limited in so many ways.

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