Avoiding Conflicts over Water


Project description

Title: Supporting Participatory Resource Management to Stabilize the Situation in Host Communities
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Special Initiative "Tackling the root causes of displacement – reintegrating refugees"
Country: Jordan
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI)
Overall term: 2015 to 2020



Since the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, around 11.4 million people have been uprooted out of a pre-war population of just over 20 million. 6.6 million Syrians are displaced within their own country, while around 4.8 million have fled Syria, mostly to neighbouring countries. Syria’s southern neighbour, Jordan, had officially registered about 655,000 Syrians by late 2017, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures. More than 80 per cent of these refugees are living outside official refugee camps. Host communities have to provide infrastructure for refugees which often creates almost insurmountable challenges. Providing an adequate supply of clean water, in particular, pushes many communities to their limits: Jordan is one of the most arid countries in the world. Its water supply system is outdated, poorly maintained and not fit for purpose in many places. In some locations up to 70 per cent of water is being lost as a result. The resulting shortages were already a challenge for municipalities when the system had only to supply Jordanian households. The arrival of refugees has substantially increased the number of consumers, and this is placing impossible burdens on municipalities. The already scarce supply of water now has to meet the needs of both the local Jordanian population and refugees, bringing a risk of further conflict in the communities affected.


The supply of clean water in six host communities is improved.


A particularly high number of Syrian refugees live alongside the local population in northern Jordan, near the border with Syria. In six target municipalities, a project is being implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to ensure that all of the 37,000 residents – among them almost 4,800 refugees – have adequate access to water. The implementing organisation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, is ensuring that dilapidated water networks are repaired, that modern water storage systems are installed in private households and that ramps allow access for all to water supply in public institutions. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) contributes to the project implementation in one of the municipalities, Bait Ras.

These improved living conditions benefit both the Syrian refugees and the local Jordanian population, preventing future conflict between the two groups.

Residents in the six municipalities now also have an opportunity to become involved in their own long-term water supply. They are taking part in working groups and in regular meetings with the responsible water utility and Jordanian politicians to discuss the future construction measures needed. Representatives of all groups in society are invited to play their part in ensuring that water is distributed equitably across communities and in helping to prevent conflict over this scarce resource. If the initiative is successful, the aim is to roll it out across the country.

The project is part of the BMZ special initiative ‘Tackling the Root Causes of Displacement, Reintegrating Refugees’, which provides short-term support to refugees and their host communities. In the long term, sustainable measures are designed to eliminate the structural causes of displacement, such as social inequality and lack of prospects. This project helps to provide water for refugees and host communities and promotes social cohesion, health and sustainable development.


Repairs to water networks would almost halve water losses in the municipalities concerned, cutting them from over 40 per cent to 30 per cent. This is saving local communities around 185,168 cubic metres of water a year and the equivalent of some 424,000 euros. 2,700 modern water tanks are being installed on roofs, providing storage for water for 60 per cent of the private households in the project municipalities.

The project is also supporting more than 45 employees of the water utility involved in the project. In-service training is equipping employees of the state-run Yarmouk Water Company, for example, to improve the supply to local communities, to plan supply networks and minimise water loss. In all project measures, special consideration is given to those with special needs, such as children and people with disabilities.