First big rains bring limited relief to Jordan dams

First big rains bring some relief to Jordan's dams, on the verge of drying out
3 min read
21 November, 2021
The first major rains of the season fell across Jordan this weekend, sparking hope after a long period of drought which has seen six of the country's seventeen dams dry out completely.
The Mujib dam is among several dams that ran dry this year in Jordan due to the low rainfall [Camille Delbos/Art In All of Us/Corbis via Getty]

The first major rains started to fill dams in Jordan with around 1 million cubic metres of water, the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation announced on Sunday.

The ministry called on Jordanians to take advantage of the rainy days to store water wherever they could in order to enhance national water security. Authorities also stressed the need to keep gutters, valleys and streets clean of trash to avoid clogging the sewage networks.

Jordan has received only 2.2 per cent of its average annual rainfall since the beginning of autumn, due to a very delayed winter. This weekend's showers, which continued to fall on Sunday, bring a first hope of relief to the country after an exceptionally dry year, which saw dams reach dangerously low levels. 

Jordanian authorities warned on 10 November that dams reached "critical levels". By then, six of the country's seventeen dams had dried up and the country's largest dam - King Talal Dam- was only a couple weeks away from the same fate.

This year, the kingdom suffered from an exceptionally dry winter, receiving an estimated 5,185.8 million cubic meters of rainwater between the fall of 2o20 and April 2021 - only 63.3 percent of the kingdom’s annual average rainfall.

A large part of Jordanian agriculture is rainfed, but even irrigated agriculture largely relies on the water stored each winter in the dams - making the rainy winter months a determining factor for the volume and quality of Jordan’s harvest.

To avoid running out, Jordan has had to buy an additional supply of water from Israel several times this year. Such water deals with Israel never fail to spark political tensions, as many Jordanians oppose relations with their neighbour.

Coinciding with the rain, the Jordanian capital Amman enters today a period of five days without water in the piped network, due to the need to carry out maintenance work on the network. 

Jordan is the second most water-poor country on earth. Its share of renewable water resources per capita is under 100 cubic metres per year, well below the global threshold for water scarcity set at 500 cubic metres. 

Houses in Amman typically receive water through the pipes once a week, and store the water on rooftop tanks until the following refill.

Residents of Amman were advised to take precautions last week and use water sparingly, as many neighbourhoods will not receive their normal weekly supply in the coming days due to the maintenance work.