ICRC Concludes ten-year water programme in northern Jordan

19 Feb 2024 by The Water Diplomat

Pump installation Jordan

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has concluded its water programme in northern Jordan and is handing over its work to local authorities, and it has also shared lessons learned with other actors with longer term presence in the region. Over the past decade, the ICRC has worked to improve access to sufficient domestic water for both Jordanian host communities and Syrian refugees in Jordan’s northern governorates.  The ICRC’s water programme in Jordan – known as the “Host Communities Critical Infrastructure Rehabilitation Programme” - was initiated as a response to the conflict in Syria and the influx of refugees into the country. It intended to improve domestic water supply though the rehabilitation or extension of underperforming infrastructure in rural areas, addressing concerns related to its sustainability as well as its capacity to cope with the large influx of displaced people. The programme has also tackled the need for strong coordination among humanitarian, development actors and local service providers.

The programme intervened in 51 water facilities, on average increasing by 250% (from 32 litres per capita per day to 85) the amount of water available per capita and increasing the resilience of the water supply system (efficiency increase of 45% on average). In total, domestic water has been supplied for 1,2 million people in Jordan since the programme started in 2012. The programme consisted of three phases:

During the first phase, starting in 2013, the programme focused on emergency response, tackling the immediate humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in border areas by providing water, sanitation, shelter and health facilities in prefabricated centres. This ensured that those displaced by the conflict had access to basic needs and essential services.

In the second phase, starting in 2014, the ICRC water programme was launched in collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, aiming to enhance the availability of domestic water, primarily in the areas of Irbid and Mafraq governorates. During the 8-year programme, a series of water projects with a cost of U.S. $ 30 million were implemented. The great majority of efforts went into the development of pumping stations and transmission pipelines. The ICRC constructed a total of 20 pumping stations and replaced approximately 70 km of pipes, in addition to other rehabilitation works on wells, water reservoirs and other infrastructure.

In the third phase, starting in 2023, the ICRC focused on sustainability: two projects were initiated which aimed to enhance the operation and maintenance capabilities of the Yarmouk Water Company (YWC). A workshop and training centre for the technical teams of Yarmouk Water Company was built in Hofa district in Irbid. This was designed to support maintenance and provide training to YWC staff, boosting their operations and maintenance skills. In addition, a curriculum was developed for operators training, and 50 technical staff members working at pumping stations participated in training courses, enhancing their knowledge and skills. This and previous phases resulted in an increase in the resilience of the existing water system.

The ICRC’s water programme in Jordan was concluded in 2023 and addressed the critical needs in the northern governorates of Jordan, particularly for rural communities and Syrian refugees. An evaluation of the program found that it had achieved its objective of meeting the needs of both Syrian refugees and Jordanians in the most affected host communities by providing equal access to safe and adequate water by improving water infrastructure and strengthening the capacity of water utilities. For example, the operational efficiency of water pump stations increased from 22% to 86% after the intervention and physical losses in the conveyance systems were reduced from 70% to zero in some cases. Also, the number of persons who receive less than 20 litres per capita per day dropped from 26,000 to 6,000 persons (- 77%) while the number of people receiving between 20 and 80 litres per day increased from 381,000 to 427,000 persons – a gain of 12%. The maintenance of the pumping stations by water companies, including access to spare parts and the number and capacity of staff equipped to ensure maintenance, remains a challenge going forward.  

Beyond those positive, direct, and measurable outcomes, the ICRC's program in Jordan stands as a compelling example of successfully combining short-term and long-term actions—a demonstration of the humanitarian-development nexus. Moreover, working in close proximity to those affected, including both Syrians displaced by the conflict and host communities impacted by the influx, the program has also arguably contributed to a more peace-conducive environment. One can therefore only hope that such success stories will serve as inspiration for humanitarian and development policymakers, donors, and actors at large.