In Irbid, in northern Jordan, water does not flow freely. It is generally only distributed there one day a week, or even every two to three weeks in the summer. Having a tank to store the precious liquid is consequently almost a question of survival there.
But the arrival of a large number of refugees from Syria in recent years – almost 1 million between 2011 and 2016 – has complicated the local situation. The availability of water in Irbid has not only fallen from 65 liters per person per day to 50 liters, well below the national objective of 90 liters, but there has also been a marked increase in the number of households residing in unsafe housing which is not connected to the water network. They are therefore dependent on water tankers which come by road.
This situation is today generating tensions between the various communities, which are all also already hard hit by the lack of employment and skyrocketing prices of rents. “85% of refugees live among the local population in Jordan. This has an impact on public services, which no longer manage to follow. This tends to create tensions among communities”, points out in the field Atika Ben Maid, water and energy project officer at AFD’s agency in Amman in Jordan.
Tensions are especially to be feared as there are substantial water losses on the distribution network:
The rate of unbilled water is close to 50% due to leaks and illegal connections.
It is in this context that AFD, the European Commission and the German development bank KfW are operating in Jordan, in the regions of Irbid and Ramtha, to improve access to water for communities. By doing so, they are promoting resilience between host communities and refugees.
Establishing a diagnostic of vulnerabilities
Since 2016, and up until 2021, these three partners are earmarking EUR 152m of grants and loans for the development of water distribution and treatment infrastructure in the region to promote access to water for the most vulnerable: EUR 40m come from the European Commission via the Madad Fund (regional EU Fund in response to the Syrian crisis) and NIF (European Neighbourhood Investment Facility), EUR 80m from KfW Group, while AFD’s participation stands at EUR 32m.
The program will expand the drinking water distribution network in “Greater Irbid” and Ramtha, with the objective of an additional 40 million m3 of water. It also involves reducing the losses and energy consumption of the main local water company. In addition, it will extend the wastewater collection network around Irbid, in particular to reduce environmental pollution caused by the overflowing of poorly maintained septic tanks.
Vulnerable households are also a focus: 10,000 of them, 70% of which are Syrian refugees, will benefit from better access to water and new equipment (taps, water heaters, tanks, toilet doors...). To implement this project, it was first necessary to establish a diagnostic of vulnerabilities in the field, by quantifying the needs of the relevant communities. It was subsequently necessary to ensure that the vulnerable households could continue to live there for between 6 months and a year once the home had been improved by drafting and signing an agreement with the owners of the relevant homes.
Adapting to climate change
In the long term, the objective is to increase average water consumption from 50 liters per person per day to 98 liters, and to create jobs in a region where there is high unemployment. These major works also provide the opportunity to initiate an ecological transition in Jordan, by reducing water leaks on the network and installing turbines on the water transport infrastructure to generate electricity.
“We are currently in the bid invitation phase for most of the infrastructure. The works should begin in the first half of 2019”, points out Atika Ben Maid. 5,000 of the 413,000 future beneficiaries of these facilities are already benefiting from secure access to water. A drop in the ocean before the upcoming opening of the valves for the entire target populations.
This publication only engages AFD. It does not engage the responsibility of the European Union.