SMART I: Integrated Water Resources Management in the Lower Jordan Rift Valley

Sustainable Management of Available Water Resources with Innovative Technologies

Working Package 7: Tools for Socio-Economic Assessment.
Institutional prerequisites and market conditions for decentralized wastewater treatment and reuse



German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF)


07/2006 - 02/2010

Project coordinator

Karlsruhe University, Prof. Dr. Heinz Hoetzl, Dr. Leif Wolf

Project website

Since the mid 1990s a paradigm shift has been advocated to move from centralized to a decentralized wastewater treatment and reuse (WWT&R). Obviously, this concept is of particular interest for water scarce areas, such as the lower Jordan Valley. However, studies show that it proves difficult to implement water reuse in general, and there are indications that decentralized solutions are even less prevalent. Therefore, this sub-working package analyzes (1) experiences with wastewater treatment and reuse world-wide and (2) carries out a case study of institutional prerequisites and demand for decentralized wastewater treatment and reuse in Jordan. As such, it complements technical and economic analyses of decentralized wastewater treatment and reuse in WP 5 of the SMART Project (see

(1) Experiences with wastewater treatment and reuse (literature review)

This sub-working package reviewed current social science research on wastewater treatment and reuse in order to determine factors that enable and constrain the implementation of WWT&R solutions. The analysis was based on a literature survey, the preliminary evaluation of surveys of a number of international water re-use projects and the findings of international workshops. It aimed to reconstruct approaches and empirical results of social science research on WWT&R in order to bring in lessons learnt from past implementation experiences on water re-use into the design of new research projects.

The study found that in current social science discussions on WWT&R public acceptance is widely used as the critical factor to explain the lack of demand and the implementation deficit of innovative solutions. However, the analyses also showed that the failure of recent WWT&R projects can be understood not simply as a failure to gain public acceptance, but as the result of planning and institutional frameworks that limit the role of the public to ex-post legitimating predetermined expert solutions and thus constrains the definition of both the problem and its acceptable solutions including appropriate institutional arrangements.

(2) Institutional prerequisites and demand for decentralized WWT&R in Jordan

Jordan is a developing country, suffering from extreme water scarcity with a centralized water governance system in place. Water reuse has long been advocated as a major management option to address water scarcity, and while centralized approaches towards wastewater reuse have been implemented at a larger scale, decentralized approaches are not being applied so far. Therefore, this sub-working package analyzed whether decentralized WWT&R is institutionally feasible in Jordan and whether there is a demand for decentralized WWT&R.

(a) Institutional feasibility
Methodologically the analysis of institutional feasibility of decentralized WWT&R in Jordan included (i) an assessment of the formal institutional framework conditions, (ii) a review of the current practice of wastewater reuse in Jordan and (iii) an analysis of stakeholder perceptions on decentralized WWT&R.

The study found that in Jordan decentralized WWT&R did not happen under a strictly centralized water governance regime. Modest steps towards privatization and decentralization and legal reforms in the year 2001 improved the institutional feasibility to some extent. But still, the decision-making process remains cumbersome, as any transfer of operational responsibilities to entities other than the central water authority and any flexible pricing mechanism require a cabinet decision. One consequence is that none of the potential operating entities has particular incentives to pursue decentralized WWT&R. Still, institutional reforms envisioned in Jordan’s 2009 Water Strategy possibly provides a window of opportunity to improve the conditions for decentralized WWT&R.

(b) Demand for decentralized WWT&R
Using stakeholder analysis involving representatives from the Government, governorates, municipalities and end-users (those who would get connected to a sewage system and/or would re-use treated wastewater for irrigation), the perceived demand, main obstacles, concerns and advantages associated WWT&R were identified.

Overall, stakeholders were positive towards decentralized solutions and perceived a great demand for both sewage systems to replace wastewater disposal by cesspits and for treated wastewater as an additional water source for irrigation. Concerns mainly revolved around the treatment plant, but not around re-use. Two distinctive concerns were revealed in all stakeholder groups: lacking affordability and worries among municipal councils and end-users about having to take responsibility. These findings offer valuable recommendations with respect to a participatory planning process.

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