Theses Master's

The Impact of Syrian Refugees on Jordan’s Water Resources and Water Management Planning

Farishta, Aleena

With the ongoing physical violence in Syria, refugees from this country have been fleeing to neighboring countries to seek refuge. Since 2011, Jordan has opened its borders to approximately 600,000 Syrian refugees who have either attempted living in the urban areas of Jordan or have adjusted to refugee camps in the northern part of the country. This number is expected to rise to 1.2 million refugees by 2014 according to Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation. Without acknowledgement of a refugee capacity problem from the Jordanian government, this thesis questioned how a water resource scarce country will plan sustainably for its future. Focusing on Jordan’s water resources, this thesis evaluated what kind of impact the influx of Syrian refugees will have on the water sector. Groundwater depletion was found to be a major concern for Jordan’s water resources prior to the refugee influx, since the total water extraction rates exceeded the renewable water amount. The overall water usage of 600,000 refugees was estimated to be about 2.3% of the total water consumption in Jordan. This consumption rate can increase by at least 2.2% if the number of refugees increases to the expected 1.2 million by 2014. By analyzing literature on water management planning in Jordan and case studies of refugee planning, conducting a water budget analysis prior to the refugee influx and after the influx, and carrying out interviews with water and refugee planners in Jordan, this thesis discussed recommendations to plan for the refugees in a manner which will reduce the stress on Jordan’s water resources.
The recommendations provided for water and refugee planners to reduce the impact on Jordan’s water resources focused on macro level solutions for governance and institutional design and also address the micro management of water resources. The site selection process for the Zaatari refugee camp required several important criteria, however the long term impacts to the water supply were not deeply considered. The hydrologic details of what would make a “good” refugee camp site should be determined by Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation in the pre-planning phase. Areas experiencing groundwater overdraft and declining water tables prior to the Syrian refugee influx are already water-stressed and are not ideal camp sites. Also, this paper suggests that Environmental Impact Assessments should be a mandatory policy of UNHCR in order to inform the site planning process more effectively and conservatively. There needs to be a cross-sectoral approach in refugee and water management planning within Jordan to address the issues related to water resources.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Earth Institute
Thesis Advisors
Irazabal Zurita, Clara E.
Russo, Tess A.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 3, 2014