Jordan’s dams dry up in environmental 'wake-up' moment
The water levels in Jordan’s dams have reached critical levels, officials warned, with six of seventeen dams drying up, while another, King Talal dam, is just two weeks away from the same fate.
The drastic drop in reservoir levels comes after one of the hottest summers on record and an historic drought.
Adnan Khaddam, the head of the Jordan Valley Farmers’ Union, accused the government of not prioritising water as a policy issue. He told local media that Jordan has “passed the solutions stage, despite the many warnings farmers had previously given on the issue.”
Omar Salameh, the spokesperson for the Water Authority of Jordan, told The New Arab that the dams’ water levels are lower due to poor rainfall last winter and because it is the end of summer.
He added that the King Talal Dam is at 30 percent capacity and is receiving 350,000 cubic meters of water per day.
Jordan is the second-most water scarce country on Earth and its residents live with less than 100 cubic meters of renewable water per person per year. Countries are considered to pass the threshold of “acute water scarcity” when only 500 cubic meters are available per person.
Still, the state of the country’s dams should be a “wake-up call,” Raed Daoud, the founder of Eco Consult, an Amman-based water consulting firm, told The New Arab. To his knowledge, this is the first time that the country’s dams have dried up in such a way.
The dams in question supply water both for drinking to major population centres and for irrigation. Mujib dam, one of the six to go dry, supplies drinking water to the nearby city of Madaba, as well as Jordan’s capital, Amman.
Farmers will be the group most impacted group by the water shortages, as they rely on the reservoirs for irrigation. The farmers of the Jordan River Valley, who plow the fields on the banks of the Dead Sea, will be particularly affected as the water levels of King Talal Dam drop.
“Agriculture in the Jordan Valley is dependent on the King Talal Dam, since all the fresh water is diverted to satisfy demands in Amman, Irbid, and other cities,” Daoud said.
Agriculture, while comprising just over five percent of Jordan’s GDP, is a huge consumer of water in the parched country. The agricultural sector uses over half of the country’s annual water supply.
Water usage by intensive agriculture is exacerbated by faulty infrastructure and inefficient water policies, according to Daoud, who said that 50 percent of water is lost annually as a result.
Jordan has designed a national water strategy to help deal with looming shortages, however, what conservation strategies have been put in place are overwhelmed by a rising population and subsequent demand.
The result is an overreliance on non-replenishable underground water reserves – over half of the water used by farmers comes from underground reservoirs. These reservoirs are depleted by between two to 20 metres a year.