Jordan’s Crippled Water Resources Protected by Security

jordan army protects water Jordan’s armed security forces have been enlisted to protect the Kingdom’s scarce water resources from recurring vandalism and theft.

Jordan is dealing with an increase in water theft. Ironically, as I type, I am awaiting a water truck arrival to refill our new apartment’s tank: I’d jumped in the shower, turned the knobs, and was met with – nothing. Landlord says it’s been three weeks since the city pumped water to the roof tanks, and the situation seems to be city-wide.

Now it makes sense why people would be breaking into the system.  Mark my words, water is the new oil.

Representatives of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the Ministry of Interior and the Public Security Department (PSD) met last week to address the rising number of violations on water wells and pipelines. The water protection campaign was announced soon afterwards: start date unspecified due to security reasons.

Omar Salameh, speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, said the operation is directed at areas most vulnerable to theft of water and equipment: the Jordan Valley, south Amman, Mafraq and Zarqa.

“We are providing the PSD with a list of locations that require protection, either because of their importance or because they witness recurring theft and vandalism,” Salameh told The Jordan Times. “Scores of water resources from which around 1,870 cubic meters of water were pumped per hour remain shut down because of violations and theft,” he added.

“We will provide the police directorates with the list of locations that need protection and the names of suspected violators. The PSD will also coordinate with district governors to end violations,” said PSD spokesperson Lt. Col. Mohammad Khatib.

The Ministry will conduct a concurrent media campaign to raise public awareness about the impact of water violations on individuals.

Violations to the water network deprive people of their fair water share and magnifies the nation’s water crisis.

Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar told the media last month that theft and vandalism of water resources were dramatically rising, threatening an adequate public supply of clean water.

This year, by mid-May, that ministry recorded 28 violations on the Kingdom’s main water network, causing remedial actions exceeding $200,000.  Pumping has been suspended at 50 points in the network until $600,000 in additional repair funds can be identified.

As comparison, there were 50 acts of vandalism recorded in 2011; and 52 registered in 2010. At this rate, Najjar anticipates 2012 repair costs to fall between $1.4 an $1.6 MIL.

Constant reinvestment in water infrastructure and associated environmental mitigation is money down the drain, but the real losses are in actual potable water supply.  Mostly semi-arid Jordan is characterized by severe water scarcity, receiving less than two feet of rainfall per year in most areas. The country shares its major surface water resources with Syria and Israel: its share from the Yarmouk and Jordan Rivers is a comparative trickle.  Groundwater resources are over exploited and aquifers are vulnerable to contamination.

Water supply is further exacerbated by steady population increase resulting from constant immigration from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine. Impacts stemming from climate change will stress the situation further.

Lack of municipal water causes a rising demand of  bottled water for many households. It’s estimated that 20-30% of Jordan’s water consumption is from sources other than the public system, including water bought from tankers, rainwater harvesting, wells and that bottled variety.

Still getting water delivery

Despite severe scarcity, more than 97 percent of Jordanians are linked into a modern system of water conveyance.  The problem is that water supply is intermittent: water was provided to my last apartment’s tank every week (surrounded by embassies, I suspect the district got special handling).

Residential water delivery to most of Amman’s rooftop tanks this summer has more typically been every other week.

Image of soldiers crossing a river from Shutterstock

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