Jordan faces likelihood of much more frequent long and severe droughts, Stanford researchers find
A new analysis of drought in Jordan – one of the world’s most water-poor countries – suggests that without alternate water sources, better land use and improved water-sharing agreements, the country could face a future of potentially disastrous droughts.
The research, which was the first to analyze several types of drought and to take into account land use changes in upstream Syria, could inform water policies in other arid countries with shared rivers.
“These impacts are from increasingly severe droughts and eventual agricultural land-use recovery in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war.” Gorelick leads the Jordan Water Project, which is exploring water management and policy in Jordan with the hope of both improving water security in the water-poor nation and developing tools to improve water availability in other drought-prone regions.
The recent paper, published August 30 in Science Advances, found that without significant changes, Jordan could face lower rainfall, much higher temperatures and as much as a 75 percent decline in water flowing into the country from Syria.
The situation would be exacerbated by increasing Syrian agricultural water use in the aftermath of the country’s prolonged civil war, which could further diminish flow to the Yarmouk River, the largest tributary to the Jordan River.
They looked at each of those conditions through, first, a business-as-usual lens that assumes a lack of international climate-policy action with continued high rates of greenhouse gas emissions and, second, an optimistic scenario of reduced emissions with climate change policy interventions.
Importantly, countries such as Jordan that are dependent on waterways flowing downstream to them are vulnerable to the consequences of drought and land-use change in upstream regions.
Increasingly severe drought events will occur almost every year.
“Most importantly, our findings also showed a steep rise in the simultaneous occurrence of multiple drought types,” said lead author Deepthi Rajsekhar, a former postdoctoral scholar in Gorelick’s lab now working at the California Department of Water Resources.
Gorelick is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, director of the Global Freshwater Initiative at Stanford and director of the Hydrogeology and Water Resources Program at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.