Wala Dam drying up impacts Madaba residents and farmers

Wala Dam
Wala Dam. (Photo: Wikimedia)
AMMAN — People in the Al Wala Dam area have been suffering for about a month due to the dam’s water drying up, in particular farmers. “There was previously a water well that was opened to farmers when needed, but the situation is different this time, as the need is very large and it is difficult to cover it through wells,” a local resident of Madaba governorate Ghazi Barizat told Jordan News.اضافة اعلان

Al-Wala Dam is located 20 kilometres south of Madaba Governorate, which, when built, had a storage capacity of more than nine million cubic meters of water. Today, the dam is facing a noticeable drought that affects many in the Madaba region in particular.

Barizat said that since the dam used to cover the needs of citizens in terms of drinking water and water for irrigation, it is difficult to replace that fully from the wells — specifically the wells of Al-Haidan — which is currently reserved for supplying drinking water.

“The governor of Madaba is working hard contacting the concerned authorities, and the last thing we heard yesterday was that the Jordan Water Authority (Miyahuna) has allocated four wells to save farmers' crops at least in the current period," Barizat said.

MP Ahmed Sarahneh, head of the Parliamentary Health and Environment Committee, told Jordan News that the drought at the Wala Dam has led to many problems, agricultural and environmental as well as water supply problems.

“We have lost approximately 150,000 to 200,000 fish that used to live in the waters of the dam, there are also rare kinds of fish that were lost,” said Sarahneh. “This loss needs about two years or more to restore this kind of wild life to the dam,” the MP said, adding that the loss to water fowl is compounded by loss of rare trees around the dam that are irrigated from water in the dam.

The start of the next rainy season cannot be determined as yet, the MP said.

“As for the agricultural situation, there is no doubt that sadly, the Jordanian farmer has been affected, especially that the most important objective of this dam is irrigation water.”

Sarahneh said that due to the drought at the dam, huge amount of silt that could have been removed easily with the presence of water, are now more difficult to remove, which directly affects the water supply and its quality.

“There are also upper waterways, which are now filled with sediment as a result of this drought, which affects the flow of water,” the MP said.

Before 2017, the dam only had 9.3 million cubic meters of water.

After that year the dam was filled to 25 million cubic meters. Sarawneh said that one of the reasons for the drying up of this dam is that it is a new dam, and it can only be filled gradually or risk damage to the dam. In addition, evaporation was high.

“We communicated extensively yesterday with the "former minister," who some have said ordered the emptying of the dam which was the cause of the current drought,” Sarawneh said. 

Upon contacting the spokespers for the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Omar Salamah, he said that the ministry was not the responsible party and that we should contact the seceratry general of the Jordan Valley Authority.

The secretary general of the Jordan Valley Authority responded by saying: "We are not obligated to provide farmers with irrigation water, we are only obligated for agricultural units within the Jordan Valley area. This means any piece of land irrigated from the water of an irrigation project in the Jordan Valley is an agricultural unit for which we are responsible. The only case for our obligation to supply farmers from other areas with water is the existence of agreements, and there are no agreements between us and the farmers of the Wala Dam area. Our responsibility lies in protecting the dams from any aggression, developing and maintaining them and finding water sources, and it is not our responsibility to (supply) the neighboring areas.”

Sarahneh stressed that the concerned authorities must prepare the dams, especially the Wala dam, which has a large storage capacity and is important for the region and Jordan. He added, "After solving the water problem in the dam, we must go to work on the environmental problems that we discussed earlier in this interview"