A land without water: The scramble to stop Jordan from running dry

The plundering of Jordan’s groundwater alarms scientists who are studying the country’s current resources and forecasting future changes. Jordan gets nearly two-thirds of its water from aquifers, and the supply is not sustainable, they say. Global warming has already hit the Middle East hard, and projections indicate this region will suffer profound problems in coming decades as rainfall grows more unpredictable, rising temperatures accelerate evaporation and the land grows drier.

Climate change isn’t the only problem that will stress Jordan’s limited water resources. The country has a rapidly growing population, which has swelled with refugees from adjoining nations, most recently some 660,000 Syrians who have fled civil war, according to the United Nations. And Jordan lacks the rich oil and gas deposits that many of its neighbours have, which limits its ability to pursue expensive options such as desalinating seawater. On top of that, decades of lax policy have allowed the plundering of its water supplies. The combination has rendered Jordan one of the poorest nations on the planet in terms of its water resources — and its struggles offer a window onto the issues that other water-stressed nations are increasingly facing.

Elias Salameh, a hydrogeologist at the University of Jordan, agrees that time is running out. “We don’t have any additional water resources from within the country to be developed,” he said. “Almost everything is captured now.”

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