Jordan is considering “unconventional” and “environmentally unfriendly” plans to solve its water shortage, experts say. These plans include tapping into the ancient southern Disi aquifer, despite concerns about high levels of radiation, and the controversial Two Seas Canal running from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea.
Disi Water Conveyance Project
The US$ 990 million Disi project (2008-2012) involves extracting 100 million cubic metres of water a year from a 300,000-year-old aquifer and transporting it over 325 km south to the capital Amman. The plan would ensure enough water for Amman for the next 50 years.
However, Disi’s water has 20 times more radiation than is considered safe, according to a 2008 study by Duke University in the USA. The government said the problem can be solved by diluting the water with an equal amount of water from other sources. Jordan University professor Elias Salameh also stated it was not complicated to deal with the radioactivity.
Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) warned against the threat of overpumping, which could cause problems likes problems like sinkholes. The group also says there were no studies that said for certain how long the aquifer water would last.
Two Seas Canal
The World Bank is conducting a feasibility study on this project, but environmentalists warn that saline water intrusion could damage Dead Sea’s fragile ecosystem.
The degradation of the Dead Sea began in the 1960s when Israel, Jordan and Syria began to divert water from the Jordan River – the Dead Sea’s main supplier.
Over the years 95% of the river’s flow has been diverted by the three neighbours for agricultural and industrial use, with Israel alone diverts more than 60% of it, according to FoEME.
The impact on the Dead Sea has been compounded by a drop in groundwater levels as rainwater from surrounding mountains dissolved salt deposits that had previously plugged access to underground caverns.
Water expert and a former Jordan Valley Authority chief Dureid Mahasneh, says that Jordan is suffering from massive water mismanagement due to a lack of a proper strategy. The country cultivates crops with a large water footprint that easily could be imported to save water. Over 60% of Jordan’s annual water consumption of 900 million cubic metres goes to agriculture, which only contributes 3.6% to the gross domestic product. In addition, around 48% of pumped water supplies are lost annually due to worn-out pipes and theft, Mahasneh claimed.
Source: Sapa / Saving Water SA, 06 Apr 2011