Water Environment Federation (WEF)

Building Sustainable Reuse in Jordan Using Social Marketing Tools


The formal practice of wastewater reuse in Jordan has grown significantly over the last several years through the commitment of the government of Jordan (GOJ) and the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A national policy has been established to support reuse of treated wastewater and standards have been developed to regulate how reuse is performed in agricultural and industrial applications. A National Water Reuse Coordination Committee (NWRCC) has been established to guide policy implementation and further development. This body is supported by a Water Reuse and Environment Unit (WREU) within the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) whose purpose is to support the reuse of treated wastewater and encourage expansion to additional users. Successful agricultural demonstration activities have been implemented with various GOJ and private partners throughout Jordan. Demonstration activities have more recently extended to include urban landscaping and industrial applications of reuse. Nevertheless, for reuse to remain a safe and permanent practice in Jordan, the practice must be fully integrated into community development thereby requiring at least a basic level of public understanding and acceptance, financial and social encouragement to reuse, and master planning for continued growth of reuse applications. The USAID-supported Reuse for Industry Agriculture and Landscaping (RIAL) Project is addressing these broader sustainability issues in part by utilizing behavior change tools typical of social marketing programs, including developing commitment, developing prompts, creating community norms, communicating, developing incentives, and removing external barriers to reuse.

The Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is bordered by the Jordan River to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the east, and Syria to the north. The population of Jordan is over 5 million, with a freshwater municipal and industrial consumption of approximately 262 million cubic meters/year (MCM/year) (MWI, 2005). This translates to a per-capita consumption of 138 liters per day, among the lowest in the world, of which between 20% - 60% is lost in the distribution systems. All surface and groundwater sources are heavily canalized and drilled, with abstractions closely regulated by trans-boundary treaties. This means that very little water captured in the country flows back to the sea through the sole outlet of the Jordan River to the Gulf of Aqaba, making for a very high internal rate of reuse. The limited availability of freshwater resources has generated keen interest in properly managing all resources, including treated wastewater, which is proving to be an important tool for effective water conservation.

The reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation has been practiced in Jordan for several decades (McCornick et al., 2004), beginning with ad hoc incidental activities initiated by individual farmers and advancing to government regulated projects. In 1995, the government of Jordan (GOJ) formally acknowledged the significance of treated wastewater as a resource by adopting standards regulating the use of treated domestic wastewater for irrigation (JS893/1995). These standards were updated in 2003 (JS893/2003).

At the same time, a Water Reuse and Environment Unit (WREU) at the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) was established to oversee and encourage wastewater reuse, and a National Water Reuse Coordination Committee (NWRCC) was formed to guide national policy development and master planning of reuse in the Kingdom.

Four agricultural demonstration sites have been developed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in cooperation with the governmental counterparts. USAID began its reuse focus with small agricultural plots ancillary to construction of selected wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) in the late 1990s. They continued on to create a multi-phased reuse initiative beginning in 2001 with a first phase during which the four formal agricultural demonstration sites were set up. Table 1 indicates the average effluent quality at the wastewater treatment plants supplying the reuse demonstration projects in comparison to the reuse standards. The second phase of the initiative began in 2004, and is called the Reuse for Industry, Agriculture, and Landscaping (RIAL) project, under whose auspices this paper is being written.

Building from the policy framework and technical successes achieved under previous project activities, the RIAL project aims to achieve sustainability of practice in Jordan through planning and transfer of demonstration activities and extension of reuse practices from irrigated agriculture to include urban landscaping and industrial applications of recycling and reuse where applicable. To achieve the overall objective of sustainability of practice, a set of activities have been defined to support technical tasks by improving awareness of the benefits of reuse; identifying incentives to reuse; and, and removing external barriers to the practice of reuse.

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