Contact Us  |  Search  
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research
Development, Security, and Cooperation
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About Us For Applicants For Grant Recipients Funded Projects Email Updates
Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

The occurrence and fate of pharmaceutical residues from their sources to water bodies and food chain

PI: Othman Almashaqbeh (, Scientific Research / Royal Scientific Society
U.S. Partner: Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Project dates: December 2016 - April 2020

Project Overview:

Jordan is facing a future of very limited water resources, among the lowest in the world on a per capita basis. Water scarcity is the single most important natural constraint to the country’s economic growth and development. Therefore, wastewater reuse is increasingly viewed as the primary long-term strategy for conservation of limited freshwater resources. In Jordan, the reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation has been practiced since the 1980s to overcome the severe water shortage. In 1998, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation commenced a wastewater management policy, stating that wastewater is a resource and cannot be treated as waste. More than 129 million cubic meters of wastewater is treated and reused for irrigation in agriculture activities, which are considered as one of the highest reuse rates among the Arab countries (95%). The treated wastewater is mixed with freshwater at the dams and then used for unrestricted irrigation in Jordan. Given these water reuse practices, the potential threats posed pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in treated wastewater to water resources and the food chain through plant uptake merit evaluation.

The results of this project will provide a comprehensive overview of the occurrence and behavior of PPCPs in the Middle East and North Africa region. The research team will assess information on the impacts of wastewater irrigation on water quality and human health in the region and will establish a baseline on the level of pharmaceutical contamination in Jordan’s water supply, irrigation water specifically, and vegetables grown using it. Moreover, this project should also help the water authorities in Jordan and worldwide take effective measures to protect water resources (groundwater and surface water), protect public health from the impact of PPCPs, and facilitate the rational reuse of treated wastewater in agriculture. The partnership with the U.S. researcher will allow for capacity building of researchers at the Jordan Royal Scientific Society in conducting scientific research on the impacts of emerging pollutant accumulation in the aquatic environment. The project outcomes will be disseminated to appropriate stakeholders.

Summary of Recent Activities: 

The project team made progress on all activities during the fourth quarter of 2018. In terms of evaluating residues of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in water throughout Jordan, the team received the results of 41 samples (collected in July-September 2017) from partnering labs. These results were interpreted by the RSS and UNL teams, generating two articles from these results. A paper entitled “Analysis of some pharmaceuticals in surface water in Jordan” was submitted and accepted by the Water Sciences and Technology Association (WSTA) 13th Gulf Water Conference March 12-14, 2019, in Kuwait, which Dr. Almashaqbeh plans to attend to present the work. An additional 45 Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler (POCIS) samples and 59 grab samples were collected from all sites (ground water aquifers Azraq and Disi), drinking water (Zay water treatment plant and the Zara and Mujib desalination plants), dams (King Talal and Mujib dams) and wastewater treatment plants (As-Samra and Wadi Al-Seer) for four seasons. All collected samples were prepared and extracted at the project lab at RSS and shipped to the Water Sciences Lab at UNL for analysis for 18 pharmaceutical compounds. Additionally, the team completed their agriculture experiment in August 2018, and vegetable crops were harvested from both sites (Al-Hashmyieh and Al-Khalidya). Original soil was collected from both sites, and additional soil samples were collected after planting to evaluate the impact of irrigation water on the soil. All samples will be analyzed for the same 18 pharmaceutical compounds at WSL-UNL.

The team also conducted public awareness and policy review during this past quarter as well. They sent an official letter to the Education Ministry to deliver three seminars to secondary school students. Three state schools will be named by the Ministry as requested in this letter. These seminars will focus on pharmaceutical contamination in water resources, contamination sources, and means of protecting water resources from this contamination. Dr. Almashaqbeh also participated in the UNESCO Regional Training Workshop on Emerging Pollutants in Water Resources for the MENA Region, which was held in Amman, Jordan, November 20-22, 2018. There he delivered a presentation on the project work entitled “Analysis of Some Pharmaceuticals in Domestic Wastewater: a case study of Amman city, Jordan.” This was particularly relevant, as the UNESCO-IHP International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ) is implementing a major UNESCO Project on “Emerging Pollutants in Wastewater Reuse in Developing Countries” (2014-2018).

Back to PEER Cycle 5 Grant Recipients