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Geography, climate and population
Jordan, with a total area of about 88 780 km2, lies to the east of the Jordan River and is divided into twelve administrative governorates: Amman, Zarqa, Irbid, Mafraq, Ajloun, Balqa, Madaba, Karak, Tafileh, Ma’an and Aqaba. It is bordered to the north by the Syrian Arab Republic, to the northeast by Iraq, to the southeast and south by Saudi Arabia, to the far southwest by the Gulf of Aqaba (northern shore of the Red Sea) and to the west by Israel and the West Bank.
The country can be divided into four physiographic regions:
- The Jordan Rift Valley (JRV) along the western border of the country, with a total area of around 5 000 km2, starts at Lake Tiberias in the north (212 m below sea level) and continues south through the Jordan Valley into the Dead Sea on the Israeli–Jordanian border (417 m below sea level). From the Dead Sea southwards, the Rift is occupied by the Wadi Araba, then the Gulf of Aqaba, and then the Red Sea.
- The Highlands to the east of JRV, with a total area of around 5 000 km2, run from north to south. They consist of ranges of mountains and plains at an altitude between 600 and 1 600 m above sea level and numerous side wadis sloping towards the JRV.
- The plains, with a total area of around 10 000 km2, extend from north to south along the western borders of the Al-Badiah desert region.
- The Al-Badiah desert region in the east, with a total area of around 69 000 km2, is an extension of the Arabian Desert.
The government of Jordan is studying the possibility of restructuring the administrative governorates to match the four physiographic regions and implementing socioeconomic development programmes through elected councils, including the municipalities, in order to achieve the participation of public and local communities in the development of the country.
The land suitable for cultivation is around 886 400 ha, or around 10 percent of the total area of the country. In 2005, the total cultivated area was estimated at 270 000 ha, of which 184 000 ha consisted of annual crops and 86 000 ha of permanent crops (Table 1). However, occasionally half of the rainfed land is left fallow in a year due to fluctuating and unevenly distributed annual rainfall. For instance, the harvested annual crops area was 168 435 ha in 2003 and 76 266 ha in 2004. Moreover, it is estimated that between 1975 and 2000 around 88 400 ha of good rainfed land was lost due to urban expansion. Data for the last three decades show an increase in irrigated land and in land planted with permanent crops, mainly in rainfed land of the Highlands (DIC, 2004; MOA, 2005; DPI, 2005).
The climate of Jordan is semitropical in the JRV, Mediterranean in the Highlands and with continental influence in the eastern desert and plains region. Winter is the rainy season and is warm in the JRV, moderate to cool in the Highlands and extremely cold and dry in the desert land, whereas the summer is hot in the JRV, moderate in the Highlands and hot in the plains and the desert.
Rainfall varies considerably with location, mainly due to the country’s topography. It usually occurs between October and May. Annual rainfall ranges between 50 mm in the eastern and southern desert regions to 650 mm in the northern Highlands. Over 91 percent of the country receives less than 200 mm of rainfall per year. Average annual rainfall registered from 1937/38 to 2004/2005 was 94 mm, although it was only 80 mm during the last ten years of this period (Directorate of Planning and Water Resources, 2005). The average for the period 1961–1990, given by IPCC, was 111 mm/year.
The total population is about 5.7 million (2005), of which around 21 percent is rural (Table 1). The annual demographic growth is estimated at around 2.5 percent during recent years, not including fluctuations caused by international political events. Currently, more than 90 percent of the population is concentrated in the northwest quadrant of the country, where rainfall is highest and where most of the water resources are located.
In 2006, access to improved drinking water sources reached 98 percent (99 and 91 percent for the urban and rural population respectively). Sanitation coverage was 85 percent (88 and 71 percent for urban and rural population respectively).