Israel’s Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). As compensation for polluting the Yarmouk River, Israel will pump freshwater from the lake into Jordan
As if the regional water scarcity wasn’t bad enough already, Israel will soon begin compensating Jordan with freshwater after oil waste and sewage contaminated the shared Yarmouk River water supply.
After detecting pollution from the Israeli side of the river last week, the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation suspended pumping from the King Abdullah Canal, which supplies Amman with one-third of its total water demand.
The ministry also filed an official complaint against the Israeli government, claming a violation of Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel. According to the agreement, Jordan receives 60,000 cubic meters of water daily from Israel’s Lake Kinneret during the month of March. Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) Secretary General Musa Jamaani said Israel will pump up to 180,000 cubic meters from the Kinneret to Jordan, and will pump another 50-60,000 cubic meters this summer.
Mr. Jamaani also indicated that, although the relevant authorities will take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future, there are no safety guarantees. He said, “If it reoccurs, we will close down the waterways and get our compensation. If Israel is fine with supplying us extra water in return for what it pollutes, it’s up to them… the pressure is on them rather than on us.”
He also assured the public that none of the contaminated water was pumped to consumers. Instead, the polluted waters were discarded into valleys that pour into the Jordan River, which flows to the Dead Sea.
To me this is still a cause of concern, however, because the Jordan River is already extremely polluted, and the Dead Sea is a fragile, shrinking ecosystem. Although Jordanian treatment plants do not have the capacity to treat the entire quantity of contaminated water, dumping the polluted waters into this floundering watershed seems like a not-too-prudent choice.
Another cause for concern is that Israel will be pumping even more water out of the Kinneret. As further evidence of the severity of Israel’s water crisis, the water level of the Kinneret is at an all-time low. This past summer, the level reached the black line, where pumping the water can cause permanent danger to the entire lake. So is it really a feasible solution for Israel to promise Jordan more water from the Kinneret, especially during the hot summer months? And if Israel can’t provide the water it promised, how will this impact Jordan, whose own water crisis is even more severe?
In any case, it’s great that the two countries were able to solve this problem amicably, since we’ve so often seen how the environment, specifically when it comes to water, can be a tricky conflict issue in the Middle East.
:: Jordan Times
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