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Water supply interruptions are unfair to Jordanian households

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(Photo: Envato Elements)
water

Ruba Saqr

The writer has reported on the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, and served as managing editor of a business magazine, spokesperson for a humanitarian INGO, and as head of a PR agency.

Next week, hundreds of thousands of households in Amman, Zarqa, and Balqa will experience their second water supply interruption in just two weeks. Jordanian households in many areas will have no option but to postpone water-dependent household chores (such as doing the laundry) for four weeks straight, to avoid emptying their water tanks.اضافة اعلان

Households whose piped water was halted last week (for a period of 52 hours, in November 14-17) will have started limiting their water consumption a week earlier, starting November 7. Outrageously, they are still expected to ration water for two more weeks, bringing their water austerity to nearly a full month.

Although water has resumed pumping this week for a typical 24-hour period per household, a large number of people will not be able to use water for anything beyond light-handed chores (such as washing the dishes), thanks to next week’s scheduled interruptions.

The Jordan Water Company, Miyahuna, will halt water supplies starting November 27 until December 3 for a total of 110 areas in Jordan’s central region, due to maintenance work on the Disi Water Conveyance Project and the Zai Water Purification Station. This includes 65 areas in Amman, 17 in Salt, 14 in Ain El-Basha, six in Fuheis and Mahes, four in Al-Ardah and four in Zarqa.

While most vicinities will be experiencing water disruptions for the first time this month, residents living in 25 residential and mixed-use areas will be going through their second water stoppage in just 14 days. Those include 19 areas in Amman, three in Salt, two in Ain El-Basha and one in Al-Ardah.

In Amman, neighborhoods forced to conserve water for four weeks in a row include: Shmeisani, Um El-Summq, Al-Rawabi, Lweibdeh, Jabal Amman, Deir Ghbar, Abdoun, Marj El-Hamam, Sports City, Al-Jubeiha, Al-Rabieh, Dabouq, Al-Mgablain and Al-Yasamine, among others.

In many of these areas there are heavily populated residential neighborhoods. It would be safe to assume that water interruptions will affect at least one million people for the second time this month.

Amman alone is home to 4.642 million people, while Zarqa, Jordan’s third largest city, accommodates 1.58 million inhabitants, according to estimates released in September.

As per usual, public information about the water interruptions scheduled for next week were scattered all over the local media.

Most top-tier newspapers based their reports on a joint statement released on Sunday by the Water Ministry, Water Authority, Disi Water Company (DIWACO) and Miyahuna. It listed the names of the affected areas in addition to the dates, while neglecting to break down the actual number of areas or the estimated population residing in them. There was also no mention of the fact that some of these areas will be experiencing their second water stoppage this month alone.

On the same day, local news website Khaberni posted a report that contained further information that was not mentioned in mainstream media. It quoted a Water Ministry spokesperson saying “additional water quantities” will be pumped this week to all affected areas to prepare residents for next week’s water stoppage.

Curiously, as he stressed the need to conserve water, he warned that no water tankers will be mobilized to cover citizens’ needs in case of shortages, unless it was for an emergency involving water pollution or other disorders that do not involve the overuse of water.
Understanding the linkages between the “technical” and the “social” aspects of water is literally the job of the Water Ministry, which over the past few decades must have accumulated the experience and the insight to understand how disturbing water disruptions are to Jordanians’ daily lives.
Still, there is more to the story. Another piece of information came in on Monday via Roya TV, where the same spokesperson told viewers that the extra water quantities earmarked for this week will stand at 10 percent, adding that people will still need to ration water to cope with next week’s water disruptions.

Fragmented information is a staple of the Jordanian government and this week’s performance by the Water Ministry is yet another clear example of a chronic problem that is extremely straightforward to fix.

Anyone working in the fields of communication and public relations knows that press releases need to include key “talking points” and background information that covers every possible angle relevant to the target audience.

But in Jordan, the norm is to post half-sleeved statements that barely offer the general public the full picture. With so many facts missing from press releases, the answers start sprouting organically over the course of several days, following a multitude of questions raised by normal citizens on social media, as well as by reporters working for mainstream media.

The problem with this chaotic method is that so much gets lost on regular people, who should not have to waste their time on piecing together the facts just to form an understanding of one simple announcement.

Professionally trained and competent communications teams should be able to anticipate questions by the general public and the media before writing press releases that share easy-to-understand facts all in one go.

This said, the real problem here is with the scheduling. Just by employing common sense, the engineers who scheduled the two water stoppages within such a short time interval should have thought about the inconveniences this will cause their countrymen and women; sick patients who need special care, mothers looking after their small and demanding children, and siblings taking care of their elderly parents or grandparents.

It takes a little bit of empathy to realize that making these people’s lives harder by creating an unreasonable maintenance schedule is simply unfair.

Understanding the linkages between the “technical” and the “social” aspects of water is literally the job of the Water Ministry, which over the past few decades must have accumulated the experience and the insight to understand how disturbing water disruptions are to Jordanians’ daily lives.

These water interruptions are not a climate change problem; they are a governance problem. And those responsible for such tight scheduling should be accountable for their actions, lest this becomes a habit of the Water Ministry’s and its partners.

Interruptions to domestic water supplies must be spaced out so as to avoid inconveniencing citizens or making them feel like someone is out to get them. It is exhausting to keep on pointing out the obvious. When will this incompetence be addressed?


Ruba Saqr has reported on the environment, worked in the public sector as a communications officer, and served as managing editor of a business magazine, spokesperson for a humanitarian INGO, and as head of a PR agency.


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