‘Critical summer’ awaits Jordanians as water runs short

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AMMAN — Jordanians are looking at a “critical summer” as the water supply is running short.

This year’s rain season was half that of last year’s, which affected dam storage and decreased the per capita share of potable water. اضافة اعلان

“COVID-19 increased water use by around 10 percent. Today, the water deficit stands around 30–35 percent. … We are facing a drought and the situation is difficult,” Sami Tarabieh, environmental projects coordination specialist at the UN Development Program (UNDP), told Jordan News.

The expert highlighted that external factors play a major role in the water supply, which include an exponential increase in population, heat waves, and climate change.

“It becomes very difficult to manage resources in light of these factors, especially with the Kingdom’s economic challenges. In 2016, the UNDP worked with stakeholders to establish a national drought committee and I believe this committee should be activated because I would predict that we live in a state of drought,” added Tarabieh.

“This summer is going to be critical. This year’s rainy season is around 50 percent of last year’s; this had a clear impact on dams, especially dams allocated to supply drinking water,” Omar Salameh, the Ministry of Water and Irrigation’s spokesperson, told Jordan News.

According to Salameh, the decrease placed “major strains” on water supply and demand. This year’s rain season came 80 million cubic meters short of last year’s, he noted.

The water occupancy rate of dams across the Kingdom reached only 42 percent this year, at 140 million cubic meters, compared to the 65 percent occupancy rate at 220 million cubic meters last year, Salameh told local media on Sunday.

The Ministry is committed to providing water in the critical stage of summer with an average of between 4 or 5 cubic meters of water weekly for every household, he added.

“UNDP worked with the Crisis Management Cell and drought was listed as one of the natural disasters. We also need to address drought from a legislative perspective, whether by finding a legal definition for drought or by stipulating the levels of drought,” Tarabieh argued.

Munther Hadaddin, water expert and a senior negotiator during the Israeli-Jordanian peace talks in 1994, told Jordan News in an interview over the phone that Jordan needs to depend on the extensive sandstone layers available in the country.

“This sandstone layer is thick, as in it has enough water for 300 years of drinking and manufacturing,” he said.

However, he elaborated that this process can be expensive due to the deep digging required to get to these layers.

The ministry has called on citizens to do their part this summer by slashing water consumption as much as possible and use it for essential needs, “and not for unnecessary activities such as gardening, car-washing, and washing street pavements”.

“We need to work together with the public and we call on people to rationalize water use and install tanks on ground levels, because there might be some problems pumping water to higher floors,” Salameh told Jordan News.

Jordan’s annual renewable water resources are at around 88 cubic meters per person, which is considered one of the lowest percentages in the world and below the global line for absolute water scarcity of 500 cubic meters, according to UNICEF. A “comprehensive solution” is needed to replenish the vastly decreasing water levels in Jordan, UNICEF adds on its website.

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