By Judith Pryor, OPIC Vice President, Office of External Affairs
One of the hallmarks of OPIC’s work is our long-term commitment to the highly developmental projects we support. Many of these projects, such as major power plants and utilities in countries with limited infrastructure, are complex undertakings that take years to complete. By providing tools, such as loans with unusually long tenors, that are often not available from private lenders, OPIC can help see the most challenging projects through to completion.
I am gratified to see that one of these major projects, a 202-mile water pipeline, is now operational after years of construction, delivering clean drinking water to the people of Amman, Jordan. The inauguration of the OPIC-supported Disi Water Conveyance Project made headlines this summer in Amman, where Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation noted that that residents have been waiting for this day for five years. He said the project provides a key solution to Jordan’s pressing water crisis and is the country’s “largest strategic venture implemented with the cooperation of the private sector.” When OPIC first approved this project in 2008, water rationing in Amman had meant that the typical household had a reliable water supply only one day a week.
For me, this project and the clean drinking water it is delivering to one of the most water-deprived countries in the world, is a sparkling symbol of how OPIC’s commitment to major infrastructure projects makes a real difference in people’s lives. It also illustrates the significant investment in money and time that is often required to bring basic services to underserved populations. As part of a complex $987.6 million deal structure involving public and private investors, OPIC committed to provide $250 million in financing with a term of up to 25 years and political risk insurance to this project. The European Investment Bank and France’s Proparco committed an additional $125 million and $100 million respectively. When I joined OPIC in 2010, the Disi Water project was still in its early days.
I traveled through Jordan with a team from OPIC in March of 2011 and as we drove south from Amman for a project site visit, I was struck by giant pipes lining the road. They were nearly six feet in diameter … large enough that I could have walked through one … and they lined the road as far as the eye could see. Today those same pipes are the conduit for water to travel from the Saudi Arabia border to the city of Amman.
While installing more than 200 miles of pipeline was a major undertaking, the project was far more extensive than what I saw during my travels. In order to build a system capable of transporting 100 million cubic meters of potable water a year from an aquifier in southern Jordan, the project sponsor, Disi Water Co PSC, had to drill 55 wells and build two new reservoirs outside of Amman. Eventually, the project may be expanded to include turnouts along the route, to provide water to towns along the way.
It’s been said that the road to development often begins with a road, meaning that the challenge of improving lives in a meaningful way often requires laying the groundwork with basic infrastructure like a physical road, or in the case of Disi Water, hundreds of miles of a pipeline. Now that the transport system is in place, the water can flow.