New research finds worsening droughts will sap the biblical waterway, which is already under pressure from agriculture and a growing population

The Al-Rweished desert. Already a dry country, Jordan’s major source of water is rapidly diminishing (Photo: Anark75)

Hydrologists and climate scientists have just calculated the future of one of the world’s most celebrated waterways, the River Jordan. Their conclusion is that the outlook is poor – and getting poorer.

If humans continue to burn fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate, then rainfall will diminish by 30%, average temperatures will rise by 4.5°C, and the flow from the Jordan’s most important tributary could fall by 75%. The frequency of droughts will increase threefold, to recur almost every year.

And since the kingdom of Jordan – wedged between Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iraq – is already one of the most water-poor nations of the world, the future is challenging.

Climate Weekly: Sign up for your essential climate news update

Scientists in California report in Science Advances journal that they took a look at future conditions for one of the world’s political hotspots, and focused on the problems for one state in the region.

Pressure on water supplies has been exacerbated by population growth, economic development, dramatic increases in irrigated farming, and abstraction of groundwater from the aquifers that once filled wells and topped up desert oases. Jordan also houses the world’s second largest number of refugees per head of population.

In 1946, a Jordanian citizen could count on 3,600 cubic metres of water a year. Right now, this…