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Water User Associations and the Politics of Water in Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Daanish Mustafa, Amelia Altz-Stamm, Laura Mapstone Scott

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-176
Number of pages13
Early online date17 Dec 2015
Accepted/In press21 Nov 2015
E-pub ahead of print17 Dec 2015
PublishedMar 2016


King's Authors


Jordan is often held up as one of the most water scarce countries in the world. The water scarcity in the country is not an absolute, but rather a politically mediated reality. The cubic meter numbers for Jordan may very well point toward absolute scarcity, but those numbers hide as much as they reveal. They hide the worlds of meaning, emotion, and social interactions centered around water. It is no surprise then that despite donor-driven push for greater economic rationality in water resources management, political stability continues to be the prime objective of water management in Jordan. Through a case study of Water User Associations (WUAs) in the Jordan Valley we try to demonstrate the political imperatives of water management in Jordan. The WUAs are an example of donor-instigated institutions for water management at the local scale. The WUAs have had variable success in the Jordan valley and some fear that they will not outlast the donors' and the government's financial support to them. The WUAs have been appropriated by the elites where their tribal dominance allows for it, while in other places larger farmers operate outside of them. Farmers nevertheless prefer WUAs because they are helpful in gaining access to patronage and water. The future of WUAs in the Jordan Valley is going to be constricted by the Jordanian state's (in)tolerance of them also becoming politicized spaces for claim-making on the state.

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