AMMAN — Demand for water has increased this year by 6 per cent, according to officials, surging to one billion cubic metres, while the Kingdom’s water deficit reached 400 million cubic metres (mcm).
The rise in demand for water is due to economic and agricultural factors, in addition to population growth and an ongoing influx of Syrian refugees, which has added further complications to the Kingdom’s struggle for water security, officials said.
“Water supply for household purposes reached 330mcm this year… while 185mcm were pumped for agricultural purposes in the Jordan Valley,” Minister of Water and Irrigation Mahir Abul Samin said in a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times.
Abul Samin said the ministry and its directorates across the country had exerted their utmost efforts this year to meet water needs despite the imbalance between supply and demand.
“The sector in Jordan is struggling due to water shortage, dropping water storage due to droughts, lack of funding for projects and an inability to recover costs of ventures due to the huge water subsidy provided to the public, especially the underprivileged,” the minister underscored.
He noted that the ministry is developing its water resources and applying modern technologies for treating wastewater and reusing it for industrial and agricultural purposes, while trying to stop the depletion and pollution of aquifers.
“At the end of 2012, more than 98 per cent of Jordan’s population is connected to the water network and 65 per cent is linked to the sewage network,” the minister said.
He highlighted that the government pays JD6,000 to link one household to the water network and JD12,000 to connect it to the sewage network.
The ministry has floated a tender worth 8.5 million euros, funded by the German Development Bank (KfW), to improve water supply in the northern governorates, where the majority of Syrian refugees are sheltered.
“The project will introduce immediate measures to improve the water supply in the northern governorates, which witnessed major water disruptions due to the huge influx of Syrian refugees,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Omar Salameh, said.
Salameh added that the project will replace main and secondary water networks, raise the efficiency of wells and other sources, and secure devices and parts to maintain the sustainability and functionality of these sources.
Meanwhile, Abul Samin underscored that the ministry’s top concern is to provide people with potable water, noting that the Disi Water Conveyance Project is moving ahead and will be completed next summer.
“More than 90 per cent of the Disi project has been completed and is scheduled to supply 100mcm annually before the start of next summer,” Abul Samin said.
Being carried out on a build-operate-transfer basis, the Disi project will provide water to the capital via a pipeline, which will start at the ancient Disi aquifer in southern Jordan and end in Amman, passing through several water stations in Maan, Tafileh, Karak and Madaba.
Under the Disi project, which started in 2007, a total of 64 wells are being drilled, 55 of which will be used for the generation of water, while nine will serve as piezometer wells to measure the elevation of water.
Abul Samin added that the Disi project will be Jordan’s first step towards addressing its water crisis, underscoring that the strategic Red-Dead project will be the country’s radical and permanent solution to its water problems.
“The Red-Dead project will secure Jordan’s water needs for drinking, industrial and agricultural needs,” the minister noted.
The project is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.
Initial plans for the mega-venture envision pumping one billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea to stop its depletion.
The ministry is also implementing the Jordan Red Sea Project (JRSP), on a smaller scale compared to what was first announced. The ministry is currently finalising work on the tender documents of the project.
The ministry announced last month that the ambitious JRSP would be scaled down due to feasibility-related and financial obstacles.
The JD10 billion JRSP, which was announced in 2009, entailed a plan to extract 2,150mcm of water from the Red Sea every year. After alterations, the first phase now entails desalinating 70mcm per year instead of 260mcm.
Salameh said that reducing water loss remained a top priority for the ministry.
Projects for reducing water loss in the northern governorates and in Karak in the south were announced during this year at a cost of JD34 million.
Water loss has long plagued the northern governorates in particular, reaching 60 per cent in Mafraq, 35 per cent in Irbid, 28 per cent in Ajloun and 24 per cent in Jerash, according to the ministry’s figures.
Meanwhile, the Jordan Water Authority’s central lab directorate indicated that more than 98 per cent of its water samples collected during this year from all water resources, networks and end users’ tanks showed that water quality was safe and matched local and international standards.
“More than 98 per cent of the collected samples matched the standards,” Abul Samin said.
The Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) is constructing new dams to raise the country’s water storage, the minister said.
“The JVA is currently implementing the Weheidi Dam in Maan Governorate and the Shaidam Dam in Tafileh at a cost of JD5 million. In addition, construction of the 6mcm Kufranjah Dam in Ajloun Governorate is under way,” Abul Samin highlighted.
Meanwhile, studies and blueprints of the Ibn Hammad Dam have been finalised, he said, noting that the ministry is currently in negotiations with the Arab Potash Company for implementing the JD29 million project.
The JVA is also planning to construct a dam in Karak Governorate at a cost of JD10 million and is currently exploring funding from USAID, according to the minister.
Dams, though expensive to construct, are one of the main means the country depends on to secure its water needs. The Kingdom’s 10 major dams are: King Talal, Wadi Al Arab, Sharhabil, Kafrein, Wadi Shuaib, Karameh, Tannour, Waleh, Mujib and Wihdeh.
The major dams, including the 110-mcm Wihdeh Dam, currently hold 51.6mcm or 16 per cent of their total capacity of 325mcm, according to the ministry’s latest figures.
The JVA is also undertaking infrastructure projects to reduce water loss and raise the efficiency of irrigation systems to 87 per cent by the end of this year, according to the minister, who said that these projects cost JD25 million.
Jordan currently treats 114mcm of wastewater annually, the majority of which is used for irrigation and industrial purposes.
A third of the country’s irrigation water allocations go to the Jordan Valley, which produces 65 per cent of the Kingdom’s fruit and vegetable exports, according to the ministry.
The JVA plans to raise the amount of treated wastewater to 240mcm by the year 2020.
A report compiled as part of a programme for monitoring pathogens in fruits and vegetables irrigated by treated wastewater in the Jordan Valley during the 2011-2012 agricultural season showed that Jordanian fruits and vegetables were safe, fit for human consumption and met strict international standards.