Feb 22, 2017
Jordan is a highly water scarce country facing acute sectoral tradeoffs in water use. Consumers in Zarqa, the country’s second most populous urban area, typically receive water from the municipal piped network for fewer than 48 hours each week, and engage in a variety of costly coping strategies to mitigate the effects of water scarcity. Against this backdrop, the Millennium Challenge Corporation entered into a $275 million compact with the government of Jordan, to improve the technical performance of piped water infrastructure, and increase the collection, treatment and reuse of wastewater, with the ultimate goal of increasing water efficiency and reducing poverty. This paper presents early evidence on the effects of the Compact, based on data collected towards the end of the implementation period. We find evidence of several changes in areas subjected to the different infrastructure improvements, including reporting of improved water pressure, increased connection to the sewer network and reduced sewage backups, and substitution of the source of irrigation water in the Jordan Valley. We also find evidence of spillovers within Zarqa, compared to neighboring areas in Amman that are supplied by a separate utility. A key category of anticipated impacts – reduced spending on expensive alternatives to utility water – however does not appear to materialize, possibly due to low confidence in the safety of this network water. Though these results only correspond to short-term effects of this infrastructure improvement, they add to a scant body of rigorous evidence on the benefits of capital-intensive water infrastructure.