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News Jordan: Water rationing strategy to combat shortages

The Jordanian government has put in place an emergency strategy to deal with a severe water shortage to meet rising demand among its 5.7 million population and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

A plan will be implemented to reduce the amount of water pumped to households: Water would be rationed with each house getting it once or twice a week, for three to five hours at a time.

The amount of water pumped to farmers for irrigation would be reduced by at least 50 percent and only crops that do not require much water will be allowed, said Adnan Zubi, a spokesman of the Ministry of Water.

Officials hope to introduce new irrigation technologies that can save water.

The ministry is currently trying to work out how much water will be pumped June-September, said Zubi, noting that a decision will be taken on this within a week.

Last year 170 million cubic metres (mcm) were pumped to main cities and an additional 40,000 mcm to Amman, which is expected to receive nearly half a million tourists during the holiday season. Officials fear that this year the amounts pumped will be even less.

The Water Ministry, in cooperation with local and international organisations, will also conduct intensive campaigns to promote water rationing, Zubi said.

Dependent on winter rain:
Jordan depends entirely on rain water during the winter season to meet demand. It has neither natural lakes nor major rivers, except for the River Jordan the flow of which has been sharply reduced owing to upstream industrial use by Israel.

Officials fear the amount of winter rain is considerably less than that required to meet demand. Some areas, including the Jordan Valley, the kingdom's main agricultural producer, and the south, received about 60 percent of their expected rainfall.

The country's 10 major reservoirs - with a total capacity of 327 mcm - currently hold only 110 mcm of water, 30 mcm less than the "comfortable supply that the kingdom needs to survive the hot and dry summer," according to Zubi.

The water deficit, estimated at over 500 mcm annually, is expected to increase, with a 30 percent deficit in drinking water and 50 percent deficit in water for irrigation, according to figures released by the Ministry of Water.

Refugees add to problem
Over the past five years the arrival of about half a million Iraqi refugees has exacerbated the water problem. The desert kingdom is also home to nearly 300,000 Egyptian guest workers, 200,000 Syrians and many other Arab and foreign expatriates, according to figures from the Ministry of Interior.

Ministry of Planning officials have called for international help to build more reservoirs, implement water conservation projects, and revamp ageing water supply systems in cities. Water Ministry officials say at least 45 percent of the country's total water supply is lost due to leaking pipes.

At a recent meeting of regional countries hosting refugees, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Planning Nasser Shreideh said JD 430 million (US$606 million) was needed to carry out projects to help increase water reserves.

Jordan is considered among the 10 most water impoverished countries worldwide, with per capita water consumption estimated at 170 cubic metres per year, compared to 1,000 cubic metres per year in other countries.

Figures from various international organisations including the World Bank, show that an average Jordanian consumes about 100 litres a day while on the other side of the border, the average Israeli consumes 900 litres a day - the same as the average US citizen. Europeans consume an average of 250 litres per day.

Water from Israel, Turkey
Despite the fact that Israel is facing a similar drought, officials in Amman hope Israel will pump water to Jordan as part of the 1994 Wadi Araba peace treaty.

Israeli officials said this week that despite their own problems with water, they will pump water to Jordan, but it is not yet clear how much.

Jordan recently announced several large projects to tackle the chronic water shortage; including the US$2-4 billion Red-Dead Canal project, which seeks to provide 850 mcm of potable water.

The government also signed an agreement with Turkish company Gama last summer to pump water from the southern aquifer of Disi at a cost of $600 million. The project, which is expected to be ready by 2020, will provide Amman and the southern governorates with some 170 mcm of water per year.

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News type Inbrief
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Keyword(s) water shortage, irrigation
Geographical coverage Jordan
News date 24/03/2008
Working language(s) ENGLISH