Aberystwyth scientists work on Jordanian floods research

Members of the project. Left to right: Dr Hywel Griffiths, Dr Jonathan Bridge, Dr Esra'a Tarawneh and Professor Stephen Tooth

Members of the project. Left to right: Dr Hywel Griffiths, Dr Jonathan Bridge, Dr Esra'a Tarawneh and Professor Stephen Tooth

09 March 2020

Researchers at Aberystwyth University are working on an innovative project that addresses flood risk around dryland rivers in Jordan, a country prone to devastating flash floods.

Dr Hywel Griffiths and Professor Stephen Tooth from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences are working with scientists from Mutah University in Jordan and Sheffield Hallam University on a project called 'Developing an interdisciplinary approach to managing flood hazards in dryland rivers'.

Funded by the Centre for International Development Research at Aberystwyth (CIDRA), the team are looking at the value of different sources of flood information in Jordan, where measured river flow records tend to be scarce.

Dryland rivers are those which drain landscapes in semi-arid and arid regions across the world. Although flow may happen rarely, when it does, it tends to happen in flash flood events. In these environments, they are also very important for landscape development, biodiversity and water resources.

The aim of the 18-month project is to contribute to developing greater awareness of and improved resilience to flood events in the region.  

Dr Hywel Griffiths said: “We are very pleased to be able to develop this new collaboration, which will hopefully lead to advances in understanding of the factors leading to flash floods in arid areas, and offer some practical solutions to managing flood risk in Jordan.”

“Despite being one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, Jordan also suffers from destructive and costly flash floods, which can impact on key water management infrastructure such as reservoirs and dams. It is becoming increasingly obvious that managing and adapting to such floods requires a wide range of expertise from different disciplines and we hope that this study will provide lessons which could be applied in other areas.”

The project builds on similar research work by Dr Hywel Griffiths and Professor Stephen Tooth in Argentine Patagonia, work which has been funded by the British Academy and the British Council.

As part of the project in Jordan, the team will look at flood records in historical documents and on social media.

They will also carry out fieldwork in a specific catchment in Jordan where fatal flooding occurred in 2018 (Wadi Zarqa Ma’in) and use hydrological modelling to reconstruct the size of past floods.

The project’s inaugural meeting took place at Aberystwyth University in mid-February 2020 and featured Dr Griffiths, Professor Tooth, Dr Jonathan Bridge, an environmental geoscientist from Sheffield Hallam University, and Esra’a Tarawneh, a hydrological modeller from Mutah University in Jordan who has 10 years of experience working on Jordanian river catchments.

The UK based members of the team will travel to Jordan in June 2020 and again in April 2021.

The project builds on links that were established between academics in the UK and Jordan during a 2019 British Council-funded workshop on Sustainable Catchment Management and Water Security.