4.2. Textual Domination in Jordan
The MWI produces its strategy documents, annual reports, and water conservation outreach materials, interweaving the state insecurity discourse with the citizen insecurity discourse to convince water users in Jordan to accept that hydraulic citizenship benefits them but also entails a set of non-negotiable responsibilities to the state. In printing and distributing these documents, the MWI seeks citizens’ acceptance of state interventions in people’s daily water practices, which emphasize the protection of state institutions and the recognition of state authority in maintaining the security of Jordan’s water supply. In seeking to cultivate this understanding between water users and the state, the MWI aims at a form of what Brinkley Messick terms textual domination. This entails the interlocking of a polity, a social order, and a discursive formation to convince and coerce citizens to accept the rules of the state in their lives and reform their habits in a way that supports the state’s water policies [22
] in line with the discourse on state insecurity. The Jordanian water sector interlocks these three categories through its government-controlled management framework, which seeks to fully encompass and manage all connected forms of social, domestic, industrial, and agricultural contexts that water use pervades. It codifies these relationships within national water laws and seeks to embed the discourses of interwoven state and citizen insecurity within the country’s social order by publishing and distributing water awareness materials as a key part of the larger water conservation awareness program. Furthermore, the Jordanian government cultivates deference towards this water management framework through these materials in a manner that places water conservation behavior within the context of pre-existing forms of legal and financial authority. It is by printing and distributing these materials that the state securitizes public water behaviors.
In Jordan, printing and distributing conservation awareness publications constitutes a concrete form of “uttering security” that builds momentum and authority by gradually articulating a discursive shift in water policy, instead of relying on overt political acts of speech to create public acceptance of extraordinary actions [26
]. Thus, as Angela Oels suggests, one might more clearly understand the development of discourses of security around a resource by drawing on the Foucauldian notion of a security dispositif
, which emphasizes that “elements as heterogeneous as architectures, discourses, legal texts, institutions, technological devices, and the daily practices of actors are linked by a complex web of relationships and taken together, render a social problem governable as a security issue” [26
]. In this case, the social problem to be rendered governable through securitization is the Jordanian population’s overuse of the country’s water resources. The government has structured its response in the form of a security dispositif
by implementing water conservation awareness programs, exactly because these programs can address such a wide range of heterogeneous types of water usage. The documents distributed through this water conservation awareness program touch on a vast variety of topics and contexts within the Jordanian water sector in order to link the two discourses of state insecurity and citizen water use, and through them legitimate the Jordanian state’s management of water through the encompassing framework of textual domination detailed above.
This collection of water-related descriptive and prescriptive awareness documents represents a complex discursive formulation that the MWI has repeatedly expanded and rearticulated within the past two decades. Its purpose is to shape the Jordanian population’s water use habits and views on national security into a coherent hydraulic social order firmly intertwined with the Jordanian polity, which legitimates the state’s control of water resources. Despite the vastness of this undertaking, as Messick notes, “textual domination is a partial phenomenon...that intersects in each historical instance with other dimensions of authority” [22
]. In analyzing these texts, therefore, this article asserts that the MWI’s project of textual domination is ongoing and must be examined in the broader political context of the time. Furthermore, the power of water conservation outreach rests not simply on abstract discursive exchange between state actors and citizens, but invokes tangible forms of Jordanian political authority, such as water laws and water utility costs, which continuously shape the lives of citizens, in order to convince them to accept the security discourse of the impact of water mismanagement on public water supplies.
4.3. Coercing Participation through Legal and Financial Regimes
Invoking public concerns over water cost is an effective method of securitizing water usage because fluctuating cost is a constant part of the daily life in Jordan. Since people of average financial means often view water conservation as a luxury, they often also disregard it as a viable daily strategy [27
]. Buying supplementary water from the green tanker trucks, which constantly wind their way through Jordan’s cities, or the fixed tanks that dot the countryside, can cost up to five Jordanian dinar (JD) per cubic meter, four to five times the cost of normal water service [3
]. The cost of these emergency water supplies is so prohibitively high for the average family that “even kids in this country…they know that they need to be careful because they don’t want to run out of water in the last two days of the week and have to rely on bottles or gallons that we bring from other neighborhoods” [3
]. This is a problem for middle- and low-income families, rooted in the challenges of an aging infrastructure, particularly in smaller rural communities where the rooftop storage tanks—a sight almost ubiquitous across Jordan—often develop gaps and leakages [28
]. As emerged in the interviews with governmental officials and with NGOs practitioners, despite the ways in which this failure to provide effective water service provides a legitimate context for citizens in rural communities to press claims on the state, both state and non-governmental actors often charge rural communities with wasteful water habits and a failure to uphold their citizen responsibilities, casting them as the culpable parties in both the state insecurity and citizens insecurity discourses.
Through the water payment system, Jordan’s government directly and regularly calls on its citizens to do their fiscal part to support the nation’s sustainable water resource development. The Yarmouk Water Company, the water authority of Jordan-owned water utility for the northern governorates, has made one such appeal by distributing a pamphlet on the risks of failing to pay regular water costs. It links the timeliness of one’s payment directly to the capacity of the Yarmouk Water Company to complete new water projects [30
]. In addition, the pamphlet uses the familiar appeal to prudent water usage, fee avoidance, and national pride, claiming, “your initiative in paying the costs of water is a national interest contributing to operational costs” [30
], mirroring MWI appeals for water users to see water conservation as “a noble national cause and a national responsibility of all citizens” [20
]. This imperative for expedient payments depends not just on appeals to national pride and government support, however, but leverages the intertwining of both legal and infrastructural forms of authority and daily need. This appeal leverages the citizen insecurity discourse—i.e., that of the impact of the personal responsibility of hydraulic citizens on the nation’s water supply—in order to mitigate the risk that instability over water shortages could cause to the broader infrastructure. As a part of the MWI’s water awareness program, pamphlets like this one contribute to the state’s attempts to accomplish a form of textual domination by imbuing daily practices and responsibilities with a larger sense of citizen responsibility through the distribution of texts.
This connection between legitimating state authority and supporting daily needs is clearest in the pamphlet’s warning water users to keep paying their bills or risk losing access to water and paying additional fees to restore service [30
]. Such a statement effectively grounds abstract government appeals to treat the safety and continuity of the government’s water infrastructure with the same consideration as one’s own water supply. It frames the consequences of failing the responsibilities of hydraulic citizenship in a much more tangible reality, however, emphasizing that if a citizen does not pay and does not contribute with their part, they will not receive any water. One might be tempted to see such a warning in unsurprising, quotidian terms. However, it is important to recognize that the utilization of water costs and penalties are tied up in a broader set of discourses about the relationships between water use, state security, citizen security, and stringent legal frameworks as well. This is especially true when the Jordanian government uses them as a form of authority to codify the state’s role as the central entity, owner, and leader of the water sector. The legal inspiration and basis of these water awareness materials lies in a series of laws and by-laws, which codified the MWI’s legal authority over the management and development of the state’s water resources, and the structure of its two key implementing bodies: the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) and the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) [10
]. These by-laws work to collectively establish an institutional framework for the Jordanian government’s authority over the development and maintenance of water infrastructure and resources, including provisions on pumping and other extractive practices. Additionally, while the Jordanian government’s national water strategy for 2016–2030 highlights the need to develop comprehensive water legislation to recognize the human rights to water and sanitation, the legal framework, as it stands, makes citizens’ rights to water access and delivery dependent on the Jordanian government’s total and effective authority and management over the nation’s water resources [10
The intersection between legal forms of authority and cost-based motivations in the Jordanian water sector becomes clearer when considering the legal penalties of water infractions. Like the Yarmouk pamphlet, these appeals place a high premium on expediency of cooperation with water standards, impressing upon violators the need to “rush to remove water violations immediately in avoidance of the punishments mentioned in [corresponding] laws [...] in the knowledge that the elimination of the violation will be at the expense of the perpetrator” [31
]. Government authorities use ideas of personal cost and legal fines to maintain both consistent citizen support for the expansion of government-operated water infrastructure and continued revenue for the upkeep of the nation’s infrastructure. These efforts also work hand in hand with MWI’s aims of enforcing water legislation and preventing damage to the infrastructure, to protect the country’s water supply and the technological apparatus that renders it available to water users. The MWI has in fact stated that it intentionally frames water conservation awareness in terms of legal transgressions and punishments to make each citizen aware of the negative impacts of poor water use habits and neglect of national infrastructure [32
]. Water conservation materials that employ legal authority to shape citizens’ treatment of water resources deal mostly with mitigating two particular problems: misuse or damage of state-owned water infrastructure and wasteful water habits. In this way, they directly tie together the citizen insecurity and state insecurity discourses with which the Jordanian state securitizes water usage. While the later series of suggestions on correcting wasteful water habits leverages the citizen insecurity discourse to convince people that it is to their own security and benefit to conserve water, the prior prohibitions against misusing or damaging the state-owned water infrastructure is directly indebted to the state insecurity discourse, casting potential citizen behaviors as a threat to Jordan’s broader water and national security. Codifying these two discourses in the same series of legal regulations and financial penalties allows the state to link the discourses of citizen and state insecurity, defining them as part of the same broader continuum of water insecure behaviors. In this way, the state aims to extend its control over citizens’ water usage, casting their failures to use water in a manner the state labels as responsible as a failure to abide by the rules of the hydraulic citizen-state relationship.
Consequently, it is succeeding or failing to consistently pay one’s water bills that establishes the importance of proper, full, and legal participation in the material exchanges of the nation’s water infrastructure, a key part of the fulfilling one’s hydraulic citizenship responsibilities. This act is at the core of the relationship between the mandates of state water providers and the ascribed responsibilities of citizen water users. Such participation makes possible the maintenance of state-owned property, and so it is not surprising that according to the Yarmouk Water Company, one of the punishments for failing to uphold this arrangement is private property seizure [30
This is a form of coercively linking “water awareness” and support for national infrastructure, which the MWI also uses in cell phone text messages it sends to water users, labeled “Conserving Water: Practical Methods.” The MWI disseminates these texts by passing them to the most popular cell service carriers in the country, who then send them to their users. This collection of texts leverages both the citizen and state insecurity discourses, teaching personal water efficiency and issuing prescriptive warnings as well. While many of these messages include advice about effective daily water use, the final set of texts proclaims the legal punishments for violating sites of state control over water and infractions upon the security of its water infrastructure:
“Each one of [these] shall be punished by imprisonment for a period that is no less than a year and does not exceed five years and a fine no less than 2000 Dinar and that does not exceed 7000 Dinar:
Attacking the mobile water lines (water tankers) and the main water lines.
Digging groundwater wells without a license.
Attacking sewage plants, pumping stations, and “water desalination technology”.
Causing/creating pollution in well-water collection/harvesting reservoirs, water tankers and water mains” [31
The MWI combines these punishments with the securitizing discourse of state insecurity to focus on transgressions against state-controlled water infrastructure, suggesting that their concern with risks to infrastructure security is high. While security risks to sites of water infrastructure most directly impact the communities that rely directly on them, the focus of these texts also suggests that the state is explicitly concerned with attacks against its sovereign property, and especially the drilling of wells [33
], and thus situates these transgressions within the state insecurity discourse. Furthermore, these texts and the legal and financial penalties they cite represent the MWI’s attempt to interlock water usage and all its related social and practical activities with Jordan’s larger political order. The wide range of activities represented in these texts emulates Foucault’s security dispositif
and the ways in which codifying the diverse linkages between the water practices in these texts and penalizing them renders the social problem of water usage governable. In rendering water usage governable in this manner, such texts rely upon the interlocked discourses of citizen and state insecurity to cultivate popular acceptance to these policies. It is in the event of the failure of these documents to promote behavioral change and respect of state policies that the state invokes punitive measures.
These messages are not just theoretical. They reinforce a program of surveillance and protection the state has extended over access points to the nation’s water infrastructure. This came as a response to domestic incidents where the state has seen tensions over ineffective water infrastructure develop into “attacks, tampering, or security breach[es]” [33
]. This increased surveillance program has since evolved into a full-fledged Water Resource Security Plan aimed at mitigating risks to the nation’s water infrastructure, ranging from vandalism and misuse to potential terror attacks [10
]. As a result, ascribing legal and security consequences to water infractions demonstrates the heavy responsibility for all “custodians of water” in Jordan, explicitly linking their water security with national security [10
]. This kind of rhetoric places the responsibility for the custodianship of water on citizens, linking their security with that of the state’s water infrastructure through a coercive legal framework. Furthermore, this system connects state and citizen in a way that precludes forms of dissent or protest, insisting that one cannot be at risk without the other being in danger as well.
The forms of infrastructure damage that the above documents describe not only threaten the security of state water resources and state-owned spaces in a broader sense, but also present problems to the state by creating gaps in the infrastructure through which water is lost. While the gaps that the above legal measures work against are material in nature, non-revenue water (NRW) constitutes another “gap” in state control of the water system. In the broadest sense, the definition of NRW encompasses any form of water usage that is “non-legislated, i.e., any consumption of water without paying the price of the consumed water, whether by tampering with the meter or the presence of an illegal connection” [34
]. Like the infractions mentioned above, the MWI uses water awareness programs to convince people not to steal from the state [34
], calling on discourse linking personal water use to the security of public water supplies to do so. As of 2012, NRW was over 50% in much of the country [35
]. It was even higher in particular parts of the country, such as Mafraq in 2013, where “physical and administrative losses” accounted for 61% of total resources supplied by the water network [36
]. While physical losses refer to water lost through Jordan’s aging extraction and distribution infrastructure, it is administrative losses, which would be more properly termed political losses, which are the target of most legislative and punitive legal efforts. An environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) director whom I interviewed framed the problem of NRW as follows:
People who steal little, or too much are [in] the same book, so we need to go after each one of them to be able to control our water resources in general […]. We need to implement the law and unfortunately influential people tap on the resources of water without paying anything. You drive through the desert and you see this huge big farm with sky high tall trees and greenery and maybe even fish farms and so you wonder, do they pay for the water? No they don’t. The resources in the country belong to the country itself. That means that all those private wells must go back to the control of the government. You need laws and regulations and the police force to be with them all the time and like we said it’s influential people, that means a water inspector will not be able to just open the gate of a farm and walk in, he might be shot for that [29
The director pointed to some of the key aspects of addressing issues of NRW, legislation, and the legitimacy of government authority in Jordan. First, the coercive frameworks of state water authority do not map out onto all sections of the population evenly. The NGO director couched this claim in terms of a political taboo: the political influence of many of the larger farm owners in Jordan—this includes present or past parliamentarians, ministers, or even members of the Royal Court—makes water consumption reforms difficult [37
]. This leads to diverging logics of water use between the state and private landowners, in which landowners conceive of the Kingdom’s water resources as sources of personal wealth. This logic directly contradicts the legitimacy state water ownership, which pervades all of the previous texts and is one of the main reasons that the Jordanian government has continued to support securitizing water awareness programs. It is this notion of unconditional state ownership of water resources MWI seeks to convince citizens of through its outreach programs. The core of this political project is to convince people that the state’s control of Jordan’s water resources must be respected if the country’s resources are to remain secure for the future. MWI has devoted much time to implementing this message through civil society engagement and awareness programs, which link the security of state water resources with the security of personal water supplies. One of the most prominent MWI programs of engagement with civil society depended on the legitimizing of state authority over water, specifically using the influence of religion and religious texts.
4.4. Water, Religion, and Respect for the State
An essential component of the construction of the MWI’s authority over the nation’s water resources lies in forging links between water conservation awareness, the religious meanings of water, and the state’s ownership of water resources. The focus on this connection between Islam and water truly began with the Water Efficiency and Public Information for Action program (WEPIA), in 2001. This USAID-funded program—which worked with the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, and the Jordan Environment Society—formally trained approximately 1000 Muslim and Christian religious leaders about the urgent need to conserve water, so that they would in turn disseminate this information in their respective communities [38
]. Because the majority of Jordanians identify as Muslims, the training focused on establishing new norms for water usage within mosques [39
]. An MWI official whom I interviewed described the efforts of the MWI in merging water conservation awareness with religious concerns as follows:
We produce [for the mosques] materials as a reference and have asked the awqaf
minister to encourage Imams to do a khutba
every Friday, talking about water. We have also talked with Islamic [scholars] in order to take a fatwa
for some kinds of behavior that are not [water efficient]. We have collected all the ayaats
, and all the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and his behavior which talk about water conservation…and distributed these to all Jordanians [40
The point of these efforts was to evoke religious authority in several ways to legitimize state authority over water. First, the program used religious texts, such as the fatwas and the citation of suras
], as well as publications on water and its use in religious spaces sent out to schools and other civil society entities, to situate water conservation behaviors within a context of religious requirements and stipulations as well as government ones. In addition, this program influenced the public’s perception of the importance of state water conservation programs by channeling these messages through individuals with positions of religious authority and community leadership (i.e., Imams and waethat
, female lay-preachers) [39
]. The intent of this program was to link the state’s legitimacy of water authority with the authority of citizens’ religious communities to strengthen appeals of personal water responsibility and hydraulic citizenship by entangling them with appeals to leading a pious life within Jordan’s religious communities. In addition to programming directed at the general public, WEPIA also specifically targeted women, who the implementing partners viewed as essential targets for education as they are often responsible for controlling a large portion of domestic water usage. In evidence to the very explicit intentions behind this program, WEPIA’s 2005 final report states “WEPIA planned to follow up with the Imams and use their influence in neighborhoods to assist with collecting water audit forms from homes around mosques.” Taken together, these efforts provide a picture of the desires of the Jordanian government and its partners to involve religious civil society entities in orienting individual water habits towards reflecting the state’s two securitizing discourses, and so work daily to preserve the nation and the government, as well as bringing them into the apparatus of information collection.
The MWI strives to develop its own sense of authority by situating itself within a preexisting landscape of religious texts. One MWI pamphlet entitled “Saving Water in Islam” clearly places the Jordanian state within a religious framework:
Waters are considered publicly owned and are managed by the state; there may not be a monopoly of waters by any person, and this is what the prophet confirmed (prayers and peace be upon him) in an address to his friend, may God be pleased with him. God’s prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) said “the bringer is blessed and the monopolist is cursed” as he said (prayers and peace be upon him) “no one hoards except in error” [39
By employing a hadith, this pamphlet seeks to establish the state as the primary manager of the Kingdom’s water resources, giving it the authority—seemingly not just political but religiously based as well—to regulate the use of water as it sees fit, and encouraging the Jordanian population not to attempt to coopt these waters for their own usage. This work with the religious leadership of Jordan shows the attempt of the MWI to reach civil society entities within government leadership, as documented in ministry outreach materials. However, this program also displayed some of the challenging aspects of internationally funded state-civil society engagement; sustainability and continuity. The most problematic aspect of this program was that “once the funding stopped, it faded away in a way, you know its religious people stopped talking about it” [42
]. This observation was corroborated by the WEPIA program final report, which mentioned limited funding and lack of financial incentives for Imams, as well as gaps in communication between WEPIA and the Jordan Environment Society (JES) regarding the goals of the project as issues that undercut the sustainability of the program [6
]. Despite the strong leadership that the MWI may have had in this program then, limited international funding and the inclusion of implementing civil society organizations served to circumscribe the Ministry’s ability to directly shape the water habits of the population. The MWI’s application of state authority through civil society organizations was not a straightforward process of bureaucratic power, but just one variable among many in determining outcomes. The security implications of this fact are that the Jordanian government does not yet possess sufficiently total control over the development of civil society water awareness programs for them to sufficiently act as a consistent medium for mitigating its perceived security concerns at the local level. Therefore, the Jordanian government’s capacity to securitize water usage through water awareness programs, and thus its capacity to increase its control over its citizens daily water practices is circumscribed by the relative sparsity of civil society resources and their dependence on international funding. The MWI’s efforts have met with a different series of successes and challenges in the implementation of a water conservation curriculum.