The GLOWA Jordan River project focuses on one of the most critical regions of water scarcity. The region has one of the lowest per capita water availabilities worldwide, ranging well below the typical absolute scarcity threshold of 500 m³ to 1000 m³ per capita and year. These amounts do not allow self sufficiency.
As confirmed in the recent IPCC report (IPCC2007a), the Mediterranean region is likely to suffer most dramatically from an increase in temperatures, decrease in precipitation and an increase in the variability of climatic conditions, plus projected sea level rise. These will considerably increase water scarcity and associated problems in the study region - highlighting the importance of the GLOWA Jordan River Project.
Water demand is increasing rapidly due to high population growth rates and economic
development. Furthermore, climate projections for the eastern Mediterranean indicate future aridification. Temperature increases and prolonged drought periods over the past decades which have reduced surface and groundwater resources to record lows may be first indications of this trend.
Figure from EXACT 1998.
Four biogeographical regions meet in the Jordan River basin making it a major biodiversity hotspot of global conservation concern. Ecosystems in the region are extremely diverse, ranging from sub-humid Mediterranean environments to arid climates across very small distances. This makes these ecosystems highly vulnerable to changes in climate and land use.
Irrigation consumes about two thirds of the region’s surface and ground water (“blue water ”) resources. Most of the surface water is located in the upper basin of the Jordan River, from where large amounts of water are exported to the south and beyond the basin.
While blue water resources are fully exploited or even over-exploited, there is potential to increase water productivity of the region’s “green water” (i.e. soil water from precipitation), for the benefits of humans and ecosystems.
The region´s available surface and groundwater resources are largely transboundary resources whose distribution adds conflict potential. Strategies for sustainable management of these resources must be based on collaboration between the various regional stakeholders and on sound scientific knowledge.