The following outlines one particular area where to build low-carbon, resilient societies that share the same transboundary water situation of the MENA region.
The region is generally one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, enduring extremely high temperatures, desertification, water scarcity, degraded marine and coastal ecosystems and high levels of air pollution.
Jordan has launched a US$600 million project in 2007 to pump water from its Disi aquifer in the south, signalling an end in sight to the kingdom’s chronic water shortage, experts and government officials say. But as it happens, it is not as simple as that.
It is argued that there are striking differences between the social, environmental, economic, and political perspectives of any groundwater essentiality between different countries. Thus, international law has been focused on this source of water. This is especially acute if critically relying on the groundwater that could be up to 97% of the whole water resources.
Al Disi Aquifer is known as a non-rechargeable type, as it is separated from any surface water or any water source. Accordingly, this aquifer is difficult to be sustainably utilized; its water, labelled fossil has been accumulated over a long time.
It is in the Arabian Peninsula, mostly in Saudi Arabia, but part of it is in Jordan. Jordan is a country of mostly arid land, with limited sources of water that has been and still is experiencing the hydro-hegemony influence of its other neighbour, i.e., Israel. In other words, the Jordan River, which is the only source of water in Jordan is being dominated and used by Israel, despite a certain agreement between the two countries.
Jordan has the scarcest water availability, suffering an extreme shortage of water, and its land is almost all arid, furthermore, it is considered affected by the hegemony of its neighbours’ concept, where most water resources are utilized without any restraints. Therefore, Jordan has focused on other sources like the Disi aquifer to maintain its basic needs of water.
Saudi Arabia’s land is arid with no underground water resources. Their economic development must have been oriented towards utilizing the fossil fuel that became the main source of the economy. The government focused on developing the agriculture of wheat mainly, to maintain certain food security, which contribute only to 1.7 of their GDP. It is assumed by the Draft Synthesis Report that agriculture had been supported by the government, but it is mainly dependent on the underground to the extent that some aquifers have dried up leading the government to recently stop its funding of the farming companies.
Al Disi aquifer is a very important source of freshwater for that area, located between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This is due to its efficiency in the sustainable development of water with the environmental ecological balance. This aquifer lies in the huge area of almost all of Jordan and extends to the area of Tabuk that is in Saudi Arabia, comprising a confined type of groundwater aquifers. The City of Aqaba depends on the Disi aquifer as a main source of water. It is assumed to be an area of free trade and depend on tourism and investments even in times of shortage in the supply of water. The project of the Red Sea to Amman from the Jordan River will initiate an alternative water supply to Al Disi, and the water from the latter will be used in Aqaba city.
It is expected that Jordan will have less water in the future, and farming will suffer a shortage of water, according to the increasing pressure on water demand for domestic purposes. This is due to the significant increase in the refugees that came to Jordan from different neighbouring countries like Iraq and Syria. To this end, many assume that Jordan has reached an extreme shortage of water, and the Jordanian authorities should rely on other resources like the Jordan River, and co-operational negotiation is significantly essential to initiate more projects like the Red Sea-Dead Sea project will be very helpful to fill the gap of water needs.
Yet the most disappointing results of the situation of the watershed in Jordan is that both the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers, which are the main sources of surface water, are suffering from extreme drawbacks, either from over abstracting or building dams for hydroelectric by neighbours. Thus, the most significant finding of this situation is that the aquifer water is important for Jordan natural resources, according to Musa Hantash, the Jordanian water secretary, saying that the “Al-Disi should be protected as national wealth for coming generations,” this is due to the aquifer vast spatial distances that are covered.
Both countries Saudi Arabia and Jordan had started to extract water from the aquifer in 1977 for different purposes, but in 1983 both have started to use this water excessively in agriculture.
The excessive of extracting water is due to the Lack of international mechanisms like the international agreement that guide the countries towards a framework of the sustainable manner in water utilization. Yet different transboundary agreements have different mechanisms.
This aquifer agreement represents one of the contemporary approaches to transboundary underground water management that focuses on the domestic allocation of water abstraction from specific areas and avoiding vulnerable ones, which support water management.
The fossil aquifer Al Disi like many transboundary aquifers between many MENA countries, like North-Western Sahara Aquifer Sass, Tunisian and Nubian Sandstone between Egypt and Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System in Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan, the world’s greatest non-renewable aquifer. These aquifers are regarded as very essential to balancing the sustainable development of nature and keeping some control on sediments.