SEP 01, 2017 1:53 PM PDT

What can Jordan teach us about how to survive extreme drought?

New research published August 30 in Science Advances shows that unless extreme action is taken soon, drought in Jordan may become even more dangerous, threatening the country with lower rainfall, much higher temperatures and as much as a 75% decline in water flowing into the country from Syria.

The team behind this study is the Jordan Water Project, which aims to investigate water management and policy in Jordan in order to improve water security. The project also intends to develop tools to improve water availability in other drought-prone regions, using strategies tested in Jordan.

"Jordan's ability to satisfy future urban and agricultural water demands will be stressed by cascading effects on its freshwater supply," said study co-author Steven Gorelick. "These impacts are from increasingly severe droughts and eventual agricultural land-use recovery in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war."

Using climate data from 1981-2010 to simulate projections for the rest of the century, the team measured three types of drought as they affect Jordan: rainfall decrease, agricultural soil moisture loss and declines in freshwater streams. They accounted for two different scenarios: one in which conditions similar to as they are not in regards to greenhouse gas emissions, and another in which global emissions are greatly reduced.

Aerial view of Jordan, between Amman and Aqaba. Photo: UN

Under the first scenario, results show that rainfall in Jordan will decrease by 30 percent, temperatures will increase by 6 degrees Celsius, and the number and duration of droughts will double, reports Science Daily. Increasingly severe drought events will occur almost every year. Flow from the Yarmouk River, an important source of water that flows from Syria, would decline by up to 75 percent.

"Most importantly, our findings also showed a steep rise in the simultaneous occurrence of multiple drought types," said lead author Deepthi Rajsekhar. "This brings on a compound effect and increases the overall drought impact significantly. The need for an integrated drought analysis has never been more important for water management." The team hopes their research will inform water policies in other arid countries with shared rivers and even those non-arid countries, stating that many nations get water from one or more of the 278 trans-boundary waterways that feed into shared watersheds and that collaboration amongst these waterways is crucial in our changing climate.

Sources: Science Advances, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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