A significant worldwide challenge is to increase the food supply to accommodate a population growing to 9,000,000,000 in the face of climate change. Per capita water supply in Jordan is among the world's lowest. Despite this scarcity, three-quarters of Jordan's water use is consumed by irrigated agriculture, while producing low economic values from additional water used compared to urban uses. However, irrigated agriculture supports Jordan's food security, so its policymakers continue to examine measures to produce more crop per drop in irrigated agriculture, to permit scarce water to meet growing urban demands. This paper examines economically efficient measures to conserve water in irrigated agriculture to sustain growing urban water demands. Using a sample of one-third of the farms in Jordan's Mafraq Basin, an econometric model is formulated to identify factors influencing irrigation water use and economic productivity. Findings show that the price of water is the overarching factor influencing both. A low water price discourages water conservation even if other institutions promote it. A high price of water encourages conservation even in the presence of other discouraging factors. Results suggest that water-conserving policies in Jordan's irrigated agriculture can be more effectively implemented where water institutions and programs are designed to be compatible with the underlying economic scarcity of water. Results carry significant implications for the design and implementation of development programs affecting the use of water in the world's dry areas.
Keywords: Aquifer, Irrigation, Jordan, Mafraq Basin, Urban water use, Water conservation