UK-Jordan Joint Workshop on Sustainable Catchment Management and Water Security
Under the Researcher Links scheme offered within the Newton Fund, the British Council and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology held a workshop on the above theme in Kerak, Jordan from Tuesday 23rd April to Thursday 25th April 2019.
The workshop was coordinated by Dr Jonathan Bridge (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) and Prof Sultan Tarawneh (Mutah University, Jordan) and had contributions from other leading researchers. The workshop brought together UK and Jordanian experts with early-career researchers in a range of disciplines to stimulate exciting new research collaborations at the intersection of geosciences and development, natural flood management, catchment science, conservation and water resource engineering.
Workshop background and purpose
Jordan is a country in water crisis with per capita water supply less than 15% of the World Bank water scarcity threshold (1000 m3 / person / year). Agriculture, inadequate water infrastructure, refugee influxes and a dependence on transboundary water resources shared with neighbouring states exacerbate stresses on water supplies, infrastructure and economy.
Sustainable water harvesting – storage and use of infrequent but intense stormwater runoff flows – is a potential solution to levels of absolute water shortage. To date, a range of projects including small and large dams have been implemented to artificially recharge groundwater aquifers but these are often inefficient and experience high sedimentation rates and vulnerability to flash flooding (e.g. Salameh, 2019). Integrated watershed management has been implemented in the Badia Desert region under a major UN environmental scheme, but objectives focus on ecological restoration and the project is drawing to a close.
The workshop sought to facilitate a crucial intervention at this critical time: to promote integrated watershed management to the address the major issue of water security, promoting continued investment in land conservation and rural livelihoods by connecting their outcomes with enhanced sustainability, security and reliability of water resource management.
Our aim through the workshop and its long term outputs is to stimulate collaborative research between the UK and Jordan to provide dam managers, regional land and water authorities, conservation groups and national government with the evidence base upon which to develop a new, integrated land and water management strategy around a secure water resource that reduces Jordan’s dependence on transboundary waters and mega-scale water transfer schemes.
Workshop leaders and mentors
Dr Jonathan Bridge (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) is an environmental geoscientist specialising in water science and engineering. He has coordinated working groups and meetings in the UK and internationally on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council and the Royal Society of Chemistry, with the outcomes directly feeding into thematic funding strategies and reports to industry and government.
Prof Sultan Tarawneh (Mutah University, Kerak, Jordan) has a long track record in academic and practice, including PGR study in the UK, and extensive experience of workshop organisation and facilitation in the Middle East. He leads a Department with strong record in Jordanian engineering, including the nationally-important Prince Faisal Centre for Dead Sea, Environmental and Energy Research.
Brighid O Dochartaigh (British Geological Survey, UK) is a senior hydrogeologist at with a strong track record in applied research in the UK and internationally. She has experience in groundwater resource assessment and understanding groundwater-surface water interactions in low permeability, dryland and urban environments, and currently researches groundwater’s role in natural flood management. She has worked on groundwater projects with researchers, state and non-state actors across Africa, in Asia and the Middle East.
Dr Esra’a Tarawneh (Mutah University, Kerak, Jordan) has 10 years’ experience working on the Al-Wala catchment, having conducted the first catchment-scale modelling exercise for water, sediment and contaminant dynamics in the watershed. She has strong connections in the environmental sector community in Jordan. She will lead presentation of the case study and links with conservation ecology in Badia, and having worked and studied internationally in Europe and the UK will facilitate integration between UK and Jordanian participants.
Prof Stephen Tooth (Aberystwyth University, UK) is Head of the River Basin Dynamics and Hydrology Research Group at Aberystwyth. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a leading researcher in drylands ecohydrology with a particular interest in the role of wetlands in semi-arid regions and the communication and interpretation of geomorphological data to and by stakeholders through arts-science engagement.
Prof Ibrahim Oroud (Mu’tah University, Kerak, Jordan) is a respected international expert on Jordanian hydrology. His expertise covers a wide range of hydrological, geomorphological and environmental sciences including mathematical modelling of environmental physics, surface hydrology, solar energy, environmental remote sensing, global climate change with a special focus on water resources.
The workshop brought together UK and Jordanian experts with interdisciplinary early-career researchers to stimulate innovative new research collaborations at the intersection of geosciences and development, natural flood management, catchment science, conservation and water resource engineering.
The workshop critically assessed the use of integrated watershed management techniques, applied to drylands ecohydrology, intended to provide a sustainable, secure water supply in the context of extreme water stress and geopolitical insecurity. The goal is to underpin robust, bilateral research projects targeting urgent water and environmental development priorities in Jordan.
The principal objectives were:
(i) to identify and propose solutions to the problem of high sedimentation rates in existing water harvesting/artificial recharge schemes in Jordan, with a focus on the case study of the Al-Wala Dam near Madaba;
(ii) to identify the hydrological impacts of major UN-funded ecological restoration projects in the Jordanian Badia desert on groundwater and sediment dynamics in catchments such as Al-Wala;
(iii) to critically assess the potential scale and sustainability of water harvesting and groundwater recharge within the national water supply budget in Jordan;
(iv) to develop a roadmap for research and knowledge exchange towards realisation of the goals identified in (i-iii).
These objectives will be achieved by immersing the assembled subject specialists in a well-studied case study from central Jordan, the Wala Catchment and the wider Badia Desert, developing their knowledge through seminars and site visits, before placing them in a collaborative ‘sandpit’ environment with the challenge of proposing innovative applied research programmes to realise these objectives and their development impacts.
The leaders and mentors combine international geoscience expertise and detailed local/regional knowledge and networks necessary to stimulate innovative approaches within the constraints of the Jordanian physical, political and socio-economic environment.
Workshop proposed schedule
Day 1 – geosciences and water resources in Jordan
The first day will introduce the themes of the workshop and explore the range of expertise that the participants bring to the table.
Morning session, 10.00 am start.
- Welcome by Jordanian PI Dean Tarawneh and UK PI Dr Bridge
- Introduction to Wala case study and the Badia context
- Wider context: groundwater-surface water interactions and drylands water management with perspective on Jordanian/Middle East water resources context
Afternoon session, 1.30 pm start.
- 2-min, 2-slide ‘quick fire’ introductory presentations by participants
- Theme breakouts. Participants split into 4 thematic/expertise groups led by a mentor. Groups will address (i) dimensions of the problem; (ii) parallels and comparisons; (iii) critical unknowns.
- Plenary feedback and cross-examination of group responses. Prioritisation of problems and unknowns. Agreement of objectives for field visits on day 2.
Day 2 – field visits (Mujib, Wala, Badia, Dead Sea)
9.00 am – 5.00 pm. Field tour by coach of Mujib and Wala Dams; Wala catchment and Badia Desert; Dead Sea (Mujib Nature Reserve). The field visits will demonstrate key issues in the catchment: dams; sedimentation problems; catchment character; soil and vegetation; land uses; downstream impacts.
Day 3 – solutions ‘sandpit’ and research challenges
The final day of the workshop will focus on identification and analysis of potential solutions for sustainable catchment water management and associated interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange challenges.
Morning session, 9.00 am start.
- PI Bridge recap Day 1 and Day 2 and introduce specific objectives.
- Thematic groups. Revisit discussion from Day 1 PM. Proposal of ‘solutions’
- Group challenge: paired groups critique and improve proposed approaches
Afternoon session, 1.30 pm start.
- Addressing the challenges – participant contributions/needs
- Collaborative opportunities. Potential consortia and stakeholder partnerships targeted at specific funding opportunities in the UK and Jordan
- Plenary – Recommendations, Research Priorities.
4.30 pm – Workshop close.
Professor Stephen Tooth wrote this blog post about his experience of the workshop.
For participants of the workshop, access to the Dropbox and Mendeley groups are available at:
If you cannot access the sites, or are not a participant but would like further information about the workshop outcomes, please contact Dr Jon Bridge (contact email given below).