The Lower Jordan Valley (LJV) comprises parts of Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories and is, in terms of per capita freshwater availability, among the water-scarcest regions worldwide. The current overexploitation of the natural surface water and groundwater resources already has severe impacts on the environment and society. According to the observed trends of population growth and demand, the conditions are likely to be aggravated in the coming years.
The Lower Jordan Valley is part of an extensive geological transform fault system and is shared by Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories. It extends over a length of approximately 100 km from Lake Tiberias in the north to the mouth of River Jordan at the Dead Sea in the south. As part of the Lower Jordan Valley, the SMART project region comprises an area of approximately 5,000 km², including the valley floor with a width of 8 to 15 km as well as numerous tributary sub-basins (Wadis) east and west of the River Jordan.
The project area is bordered by mountain ridges in the east along the axis Irbid-Amman-Madaba and on the western side along the axis of Nablus-Ramallah-Jerusalem-Hebron. The Dead Sea topographically is the lowest area and currently is located at about 420 m below sea level, while the surrounding mountain ridges reach altitudes of 1,200 m above sea level. Only few urbanized areas can be found in the Jordan Valley due to the hot and dry climate prevailing close to the Dead Sea. An example is Jericho (population 20,000). Larger urbanized areas are located on top of the escarpments, such as Amman, Irbid, Salt, and Madaba in Jordan on the eastern side and Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, and Ramallah on the western side.
The climate in the project region is arid to Mediterranean. Arid conditions prevail in the Jordan Valley with precipitations below 150 mm/a, whereas the potential evaporation can exceed 2,600 mm/a. Along the mountain ridges, Mediterranean climate predominates with precipitation rates of 600 to 800 mm/a and a potential evaporation of 1,600 to 1,900 mm. The transition zone along the slopes is characterized by a semi-arid climate with precipitation rates of 200 to 300 mm/a and a potential evaporation of 1,900 to 2,400 mm/a. (Wolf & Hötzl 2011, Klinger et al. 2014, Klinger et al. 2015)