Water: A looming crisis on the horizon

Fahed Khitan (Photo: JNews)
We are facing a challenge of no less importance than unemployment and living standards. It is in no way new, but it is catching up with us this summer and will require quick and decisive measures to contain it.اضافة اعلان

Minister of Water Mohammad Najjar sounded the alarm yesterday, warning of a huge deficit in this summer’s water reserves, and called on citizens to ration water as much as possible.

The ministry revealed intentions to allocate 5 cubic meters of water to each house weekly, in a precautionary move to keep the severe shortage in this year’s dam reserves under control, in light of a water deficit estimated at 80 million cubic meters, compared to the previous year.

Last year, the rain season resulted in a dam reserve of 220 million cubic meters. This year it did not surpass 140 million cubic meters.

Ground water sources are also in severe shortage in many governorates due to overutilization, and, ever since the Disi Water Conveyance Project, we have not implemented any projects to enforce our water reserves.

But the scorching summer days are upon us, along with the return of tens of thousands of expatriates for the holidays and the reopening of sectors. This means that water demand will reach record levels.

The only option open to the government will be to purchase additional quantities from the same seller, according to familiar sources. Some are wagering on reaching an understanding with Syria that would serve to secure our needs, but experts in the water sector say that is unlikely in light of the current conditions in Syria, and its irresponsiveness to similar requests from Jordan in the past.

Simultaneously, the government must immediately launch a wide-reaching campaign to limit water violations and impose the maximum penalties against perpetrators. Additionally, it must continue to reduce losses by improving and maintaining water networks.

The average of water loss from networks exceeds 45 percent, according to the Ministry of Water, a significant portion of which is attributed to theft and violations at main supply lines, while the remaining loss is due to worn-out pipelines.

All these measures might help us to make it this summer, but it will not end our long battle with water scarcity, so the government must expedite the procedures for floating the national Aqaba water conveyance project.

The project would take at least three years to implement and would secure some 250 million cubic meters of water annually, which exceeds our need.

The ultimate solution for the water scarcity problem is to adopt the option of water desalination in Aqaba and pumping the water through a pipeline to the Kingdom’s water distribution stations. Feasibility studies were completed and donor entities are prepared to help in funding the project on a build-operate-transfer basis, which is widely endorsed across the world and was locally tested in successful projects, such as Queen Alia International Airport and the Disi project.

A water crisis is looming on the horizon, and if we do not deal with it seriously and effectively, it is not unlikely that this crisis would be the spark for internal disturbances and popular protests that would deepen our domestic crisis.

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