Water harvesting has proponents, but also doubters

1. Farm reservoir
A Farm-level reservoir in Southern Jordan Valley. (Photo: Flickr)
AMMAN — In light of the increasing demand for water in Jordan and climatic changes that weaken water management control, environmental experts suggested several solutions, the most important of which is low-cost water harvesting. اضافة اعلان

There are some, however, who disagree with the feasibility of this solution.

Director of the Smart Desert Project Ali Al-Hayajneh told Jordan News that the water situation in Jordan is bad, so water harvesting is a solution; it entails collecting the largest possible amount of rainwater during the rainy seasons, no matter how short, he said, adding that this could secure large quantities to meet the different needs for water of citizens.

Hayajneh said that relying on water harvesting would reduce the risk of floods, which has increased recently in the southern governorates and the desert areas.

“Water harvesting is not a new idea. Rather, it has existed for thousands of years, and its effects are still visible in archaeological areas such as Petra, which is famous for having the best ancient network for collecting and draining water,” he said.

Since water harvesting is a global solution that countries of the world resort to, especially those that suffer from water scarcity, Hayajneh commended Minister of Agriculture Khaled Al-Hanaifat who, when announcing the ministry’s strategy for the year 2022–2023, said the ministry was striving to build thousands of water harvesting reservoirs in various regions of Jordan to reduce the longstanding water deficit problem.

Hayajneh stressed that the Smart Desert project cannot be excluded from the national agenda that strives to address water shortages. A large part of the project depends on water harvesting, including in Ramtha and northeastern Badia. The selection of these and other areas is the result of studies conducted to identify areas with a high potential to provide a large water harvest.

Hayajneh stressed that there should be greater awareness among citizens and urged them to practice water harvesting at home, due to its low cost and great effectiveness.

“Other solutions cannot be ignored, of course, and we must also continue to raise awareness about rationing water consumption and the correct management of its distribution, and constantly provide the correct information about water situation in Jordan to the citizens,” he said.

The head of the Union of Environmental Associations, Omar Shoshan, told Jordan News that the water situation in Jordan is very critical due to the deterioration of the 13 aquifers in Jordan, the problem of managing dams and their capacity, the high rate of evaporation of surface water, illegal encroachments on water sources, and technical losses of water as a result of the old water networks.

Shoshan stressed that all these problems can only be solved through major projects such as the National Mega Project, which would help Jordan face the water problems it suffers from.

He added that climate change requires high-level adaptation measures and that one of these measures is the Red Sea water desalination project.

Security oversight and strengthening water management, in cooperation with security and control institutions in general, by inflicting serious and deterrent penalties against violators, is very important, said Shoshan.

Also important is to exercise local control over the cleanliness of water resources and protect them from pollution, while continuously raising citizens’ awareness about the need to ration water consumption.

Shoshan did not see water harvesting as a serious solution, in view of the very high rate of evaporation. He said that the best thing to do when harvesting water is to fill the aquifers only.

“What is being dug in the desert is left in the sun, so there is no real benefit from that as it is not applied in the right way, and the environmental impact is not studied properly,” he said.

Environmental expert Mohammad Samih agreed and suggested that the problematic water situation in Jordan requires major projects, which “can be a radical solution”. Other solutions are the National Mega Project and the Red Sea desalination project, whose impact will be significant and precise, unlike water harvesting, he said.

Samih believes that the idea of water harvesting is only a complementary solution to large projects and that its implementation needs a careful study so as not to affect other natural resources.

“If we use water harvesting, the responsible authorities must raise citizens' awareness about individual projects and must be careful and accurate concerning water harvesting national projects,” he said.

Dureid Mahasneh, a water expert, told Jordan News that the rain that falls in Jordan is not enough for harvesting. Rain reaches 3 billion cubic meters in the poor rainy seasons, and 8 billion cubic meters in the rich rainy seasons, he said, adding that, “unfortunately, 85 percent of these quantities are exposed to evaporation, so water harvesting will not be feasible due to climate change that causes high temperatures. Consequently, the water in the water harvesting ponds and dams evaporates".

Mahasneh added that water harvesting would recharge the groundwater, but the groundwater depletion is serious; Jordan had 13 aquifers before, while now it has only two, he said.

“We have enough water for two million people, while the population is 11 million. Therefore, water harvesting is a simple solution for a limited period and a limited quantity that is insufficient in the long run,” he said.

As for the appropriate solution, "of course the Red Sea water desalination project is the best option under the current circumstances".

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