Jordan: Desert farmers learn how to recycle water

Tom A. Peter
Farmers in Bayoudeh fill a pump with ‘gray water.’

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

BAYOUDEH, JORDAN – Of all the places in the world where you might expect to find people eager to conserve water, you’d think that the desert would be one of them. Yet in Jordan, which is 92 percent desert, monitoring water is a new concept.

Nearly 50 years ago the nation was water rich. The population had access to a healthy 2,600 gallons of water a day per capita each year. However, the population was also less than 1 million people. Since then Palestinian and Iraqi refugees have flooded into the country.

Today there are 6.3 million people in Jordan who only have access to 101 gallons of water a day per capita. Consequently, many Jordanians are only now realizing the need to conserve.

“Many people who are not educated do not know the size of the problem,” says Sameeh al-Nuimat, who is working with Care International to spread water conservation practices in Bayoudeh.

Mr. Nuimat is teaching farmers how to harvest rain- water and recycle “gray water” – waste water other than what people flush down the toilet. The filtered water is used to irrigate fields, saving families about 26,400 gallons of water and $150 yearly.

While Nuimat admits that it would be difficult to apply such a program in cities, agriculture consumes between 60 and 70 percent of the nation’s water supply. Still, he says that conservation is catching on.

Schoolchildren are taught about how to save water as part of the official curriculum, local mosques have awareness campaigns, and one program shows businesses how much money they would save if they used less water.

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