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Water levels in aquifers dropping 5 metres annually — study

By Hana Namrouqa - May 03,2015 - Last updated at May 03,2015

AMMAN — Random pumping of underground water has exceeded the safe yield, particularly after 2011 when the Syria crisis started, according to recent studies on aquifers in Jordan.

The studies, carried out by the Water Ministry in cooperation with international institutions, indicated that levels of underground water in the country are dropping by five metres annually, while in certain aquifers, the drop has reached 60 metres over the past 15 years.

The depth of underground water in most of the northern region’s aquifers has exceeded 300 metres, which increased the cost of extracting water for drinking purposes, rendering the process economically unfeasible, the studies said.

As the conflict in Syria enters its fifth year, Jordan is hosting 1.4 million Syrians, of whom some 650,000 are refugees and 85 per cent live among host communities, while the remainder live in camps, according to the 2015-2017 Jordan Response Plan for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, prepared by the ministry and UNICEF and released late in April.

The majority of Syrians refugees reside in the northern governorates and their daily per capita share of water stands at 40 litres provided via drilling wells, according to the ministry.

Water Minister Hazem Nasser said the studies revealed “terrifying results” on the state of the country’s aquifers.

“The studies indicate that levels of water at the aquifers are greatly receding. This will cause the aquifers to dry up due to random pumping and increasing demand for water for irrigation and drinking, particularly in light of the ongoing Syrian refugee influx into Jordan,” Nasser said in a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times.

Ministry data indicate that 510 million cubic metres (mcm) of water were extracted from aquifers in 2012, when the safe yield stands at 270mcm, Nasser said, highlighting that underground water resources supply 70 per cent of the Kingdom’s water needs.

The studies listed several recommendations to ensure the sustainability of aquifers, mainly that the ministry press ahead with its crackdown on violations on the water networks and resources.

The ministry and security authorities launched a national campaign in July 2013 to end water theft and seal all unlicensed wells across the country. Until last month, joint teams dismantled more than 14,805 illegal fixtures on pipes and sealed 616 wells, while 750 cases of water abuse were referred to court in an attempt to protect the country’s water resources from depletion and theft.

The studies also called for monitoring the depth at which wells are drilled and reducing the amount of water pumped from aquifers.

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