Skip to Content

news | April 11, 2016 | Jordan | Emergency

Photostory: Providing water to the refugees in Za’atari camp

© ACTED Jordan

Jordan is characterised by severe water scarcity, being the third-driest country in the world. With the Syrian crisis, the country has seen a rapid influx of people seeking refuge, especially in the north, where Za’atari refugee camp, the largest camp in Jordan and one of the largest in the world, is located. ACTED is the main provider of drinking water to refugees there, working hard to ensure to all people have safe and equitable access to a sufficient quantity of water for drinking, cooking and personal and domestic hygiene.

In a typical winter month, the water supply team delivers 100,000 m3 of water to nearly 80,000 refugees living in Za’atari camp. To supply this amount of water, ACTED provides work opportunities to 128 Syrian refugees and Jordanians per week, creating a delivery chain from borehole to tank. This enables many people, both Syrian and Jordanian, to increase their household income and quality of life.

To adapt to weather conditions, population increases or other challenges that may obstruct normal supply, ACTED has a variety of contingency plans in place. For example, winter storms in January led ACTED to place extra water tanks around the camp when trucks were not be able to distribute the required amount of water per person. In warm summer days, temperatures can exceed 50 degrees Celsius, increasing the demand for water. ACTED responds adequately with increased amounts delivered to the refugees in the months of June, July, August and September.

The following photos show the steps of water distribution in Za’atari camp, from pumping underground water at the borehole, to grey water leaving households.


Step 1: ACTED internal borehole: story of Usama, a Syrian taking part in the cash for work activities.

Usama comes from Dar’aa, Syria and is 27 years old. He has been in Za’atari with his family for 3 years. Usama and his wife have 7 young mouths to feed, meaning he spends his income on food and clothing. Working at one of the internal boreholes at the camp, he explains that his role is to fill each truck with the sufficient amount of water, opening and closing the valve from the borehole.

Step 2: Water testing: Story of Yasser, the Jordanian site manager.

Once the truck is filled, Yasser, a Jordanian national staff, needs to check the water quality before dispatching the truck to the districts of the camp. Yasser crosschecks each truck with the master list to update the water database. On a daily average, 45 trucks enter this borehole: “I check for chlorine level, taste, odour and colour”, says Yasser.

Step 3: Filling private and public tanks: Story of Mustafa, a Syrian water filler.

The truck’s water quality is cleared and water distributions can begin. Mustafa is a Syrian refugee doing cash for work activity, he is the water filler in District 7. His role is to fill the public and private water tanks across the camp. This position enables him to support his wife and child.

Step 4: Families collect the water in public tanks.

As soon as the tanks are filled, families arrive with jerry cans and buckets to collect their daily intake of water. Each community has elected a community focal point, responsible for communicating with the water supply teams in case of any issues or shortages of water. Each person is entitled to 35 litres per day. The water is then used for drinking, cooking, cleaning, washing and other domestic purposes.

Step 5: ACTED builds a sewer network throughout the camp to collect grey water.

Until recently, there was no proper way of dealing with the waste water, leaving families with no options but to build private pits around their houses. ACTED is working on building a camp-wide underground wastewater network. The wastewater network is built in collaboration with WASH partners in the camp, with Syrian and Jordanian staff, actively working towards completion by June 2016.

Step 6: Cash for workers working on household connection to the sewer line

Households are being connected to the new wastewater network. Each family will have one external outlet: connecting one for solid free water, and one for a toilet. The waste water then flows into underground tanks that are frequently emptied, with the wastewater taken to a treatment plant. Talal, who used to be a farmer, now relies on international organizations for income and food. He explains that the recent connection of his house to the wastewater network has greatly improved their living conditions. Before that, he had two private pits in front of his house, constituting a safety hazard for his five children as they were rarely emptied, and attracted a lot of flies. Talal is grateful for the new sewer system, that got rid of the pervasive smell in his neighbourhood.