What happens when a country runs out of water? 

Jordan, a country facing chronic drought and the consequences of a refugee crisis is one of the most water scarce places on the planet. According to a report by Mercy Corps, the country’s water source is also impacted by extreme waste and overuse.

Northern Jordan hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees and has been hit the hardest by the water crisis. According to a report from the Guardian, hospitals and schools don’t have enough water to maintain sanitation standards and mosques cannot perform the necessary daily ablutions.

More than half a million Syrian refugees are now living in Jordan, already one of the world's driest countries. Water shortages have reached emergency levels in some areas, where the supply is as low as 30 liters per person per day — one-tenth of what the average American uses. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

More than half a million Syrian refugees are now living in Jordan, already one of the world’s driest countries. Water shortages have reached emergency levels in some areas, where the supply is as low as 30 liters per person per day — one-tenth of what the average American uses. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

“Not having water adds a lot of pressure to people,” said Um Omar, a single mother living in northern Jordan. Sometimes she would go to neighbors to ask for water, but often they were nearly as desperate.

To curb this problem Jordan intends on signing a water-sharing agreement with Israeli and Palestinian authorities in December. By mid-2018 the agreement intends to stabilize size of the Dead Sea by pumping brine into it.

“There is no other way Jordan can address water scarcity, given the increasing population and challenges brought by climate change,” Nabeel Zoubi, project manager for the Red-Dead Sea program said.

Faulty pipelines and outdated infrastructure also impacts the water shortage of Jordan. According to the Guardian, the amount of water lost nationwide every year could satisfy the basic needs of 2.6 million people, or more than a third of Jordan’s current population.

Mercy Corps has been working with citizens since 2006 and has helped families and schools install rainwater catchments and greywater treatment systems.  By investing in long-term development, Jordan can maintain existing infrastructure and hopefully improve the water crisis as well as the quality of life for Syrian refugees.

The investments Mercy Corps has made not only help sustain Syrian refugees, but also citizens of Jordan as well.


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