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French Version

WEPIA program becomes Jordan\'s priority

As the summer just gets hotter and hotter, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation is enacting the WEPIA program as a nation-wide plan to compel all public and private sectors in the Kingdom to cut water bills by half.

JORDAN (Star) - Um Ahmed is taking care of her household through a water schedule she has imposed on her husband and four children for over a year now. Every week the enthusiastic mother pushes her family to respect their daily routine and reduce their water bill, moderate by most standards.
Um Ahmed\'s steps follow the instructions of WEPIA (Water Efficiency and Public Information for Action) program. Households and businesses are the primary targets of WEPIA, hoping to reduce water consumption and increase awareness about water efficiency amongst Jordanians. The program also intends to increase partner NGOs participation in delivering water usage education programs.

As the summer just gets hotter and hotter, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation is enacting the WEPIA program as a nation-wide plan to compel all public and private sectors in the Kingdom to cut water bills by half. All indicators show Jordan could overcome its water crisis if the people and the government worked together on water management.

With over JD 6 million paid annually by publicly owned departments on water consumption, ministry officials are serious about the initiative to conserve water resources. Saad Bakri, secretary general of Ministry of Water and Irrigation, believes Jordanians need first to adjust their formula for the available water resources in the Kingdom and their consumption of water in respective households and businesses. By using water saving devices public departments can save up to JD 2.1 million in water bills. About 20 percent of these departments, including ministries, are currently employing these devices. Bakri said the plan is targeting those who are consuming over 500 cubic meters of water per three-month cycle.

Recent surveys indicate some 50 percent of the Kingdom agree they would pursue a water conservation program in their household and/or business. But such a program requires more than merely a public introduction. The reality that sustainable water resources are necessary and benefit coming generations has to be emphasized. Education, demand management and capacity building are vital basics to preserve Jordan\'s limited water resources from evaporation.

\"It should be clear an efficient water conservation program cannot be installed without clear cooperation between public and private sectors,\" Bakri told The Star. He explained Jordan is one of the world\'s top 10 countries suffering from insufficient water resources. Bakri indicated the Ministry had set long and short-term strategies to deal with the water crisis.

The WEPIA program, launched by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), allocates around $420 million in total aid for major water projects planned for 2002. \"As USAID and the Ministry of Water expand on their water demand management activities, relationships expand further to the field of education, public works, municipalities and other agencies,\" said Ms Tony Christiansen-Wagner, director of the USAID Mission in Jordan.

She made it clear; education can be more productive and effective if local universities, NGOs and private sector groups participate in the partnership between the government and USAID.

Among the current programs WEPIA is working on is a water-conserving landscape. The program is the first of its kind in the Middle East, the aim of which is to instruct Jordanians on conserving irrigated water by planting certain plants and flowers that do not require a great deal of water. The water-conserving landscapes project also promotes native species that adapt to Jordan\'s climate, supporting nurseries that make them available for the public.

The program, worth an estimated $4.2 million, stresses three areas: Education, public regulation and community support. Wagner said the program is a four-year project which aims to change Jordanians\' choice of plants and flowers away from species that require excessive watering.

The water-conserving landscape project intends to increase the use of water harvesting, creating successful xeriscapes (water conserving method used in arid or semiarid climates). \"Created landscapes need maintenance such as pruning, weed removal, and maintenance of the irrigation system,\" said Dr Margaret Livingston of the University of Arizona\'s School of Landscape Architecture.

Mulching gardens covers soil and reduces water evaporation and improves root growth, limiting weed growth, explained Livingston. \"Many may consider water-conserving landscapes to be a less serious side of water demand management, but in fact a great deal of water is used inefficiently in landscapes that are poorly designed,\" said Wagner, adding Jordan has very few native plants that are commercially grown, which could present employment and business opportunities.

\"Water conserving landscapes have an economic advantage,\" said Bakri. \"Jordan\'s water crisis can only be solved in two ways: Efficient water consumption and discovery of new water supplies. Without citizen knowledge and involvement the government can\'t overcome this problem.\"

Ghassan Joha, Star Staff Writer
The Star

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