9.9 Policy responses

Box 9.3: Jordan faces a combined refugee and water crisis

Jordan is one of the world’s most water-scarce countries, providing only 150 m3 of water annually per person, much lower than the 1,000 m3/capita level denoting water scarcity. Jordan also currently hosts over 717,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, adding to freshwater supply pressures. The formerly permanent lush Azraq Oasis in Jordan used to cover more than 6,000 ha, supporting a variety of plant and animal life, including migratory birds, as well as being the main water source for Jordan’s capital city, Amman. However, it was almost completely dried out by 1990, due to overexploitation of the underlying aquifer. By 2017, there were over 35,000 refugees living in the Azraq refugee camp in the oasis (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] 2017), an unsustainable situation contributing to further water stress (Alhajahmad and Lockhart 2017).

Human activities now dominate changes in the biosphere and functioning of the Earth system (Green et al. 2015; Vörösmarty, Meybeck and Pastore 2015; Vörösmarty et al. 2015), “causing complex, and frequently unwanted outcomes including unprecedented changes to global water circulation” (Bhaduri et al. 2016).

In addition to many other challenges facing sustainability (Yihdego and Salem 2017), the ‘Future We Want’ adopted by the Member States of the United Nations in 2012 (Rio +20) recognizes that “water is at the core of sustainable development” (United Nations General Assembly 2012 [66/288]; UNESCO and WWAP 2015). Urgent local-scale actions to meet human water needs, however, may trigger increased regional and global environmental stress, and trade-offs (Bhaduri et al. 2016).

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a dedicated water goal (SDG 6), incorporating eight targets, in a holistic framework linking drinking water provision, sanitation, water-use efficiency, water quality and sustainability. The framework includes targets on integrated water resource management and transboundary cooperation, and this section examines a variety of global and regional governance approaches and policy responses to achieve them. The effectiveness of specific examples is explored in Chapter 16.