A street view of groundwater policymaking and management in Azraq, Jordan

Hoor Al-Amin
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Amman, Jordan; alamin.hoor@gmail.com

Jaap Evers
Water Governance Department, IHE Delft – Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands; j.evers@un-ihe.org

Leon M. Hermans
Land and Water Management Department, IHE Delft; and Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands, l.hermans@un-ihe.org / l.m.hermans@tudelft.nl

ABSTRACT: Groundwater management is a complex task that includes a multitude of actors. It is even more complicated in water scarce countries with less well-established formal water governance structures. In these settings, local government officers have been recognised for their essential role in groundwater management. Often, their role is described as problematic, with officers being under-resourced, under-motivated and, at times, corrupt. In this paper we zoom in on these street-level bureaucrats in Azraq, one of the most depleted groundwater basins in Jordan. Based on inputs from officers, farmers, and sector experts, we collate and analyse information on how the settings in which local officers work influence their day-to-day implementation of policies. We observe that officers in Azraq are heavily influenced by the context in which they operate. This context is characterised by the physical scarcity of groundwater, the formal policy setting, and the presence of the shadow state. The context shapes local officers’ relationships with farmers, their own personal beliefs and subjectivities, and their capacity and resources. As a result, their divergent actions arguably become the groundwater management policy. Based on these findings, we argue that a deeper understanding is needed of the underlying factors and drivers that shape local groundwater management if we are to arrive at better groundwater policy for a more sustainable future.

KEYWORDS: Groundwater management, street-level bureaucrats, policymaking, shadow state, Jordan