By Rand Dalgamouni

AMMAN – The main challenge facing Jordan in the water sector is a distortion in the market, an expert said on Saturday.

In a lecture at Al Rai Centre for Research on the Kingdom’s strategic challenges and opportunities in the water and energy fields, former minister of water and irrigation Munther Had-dadin explained that the country’s annual needs of water are 10 billion cubic metres, of which only 20 per cent is available.

He stressed the need for the Kingdom to capitalise on “green water” – rainfall that infiltrates and remains in the soil.

Including green water in official calculations increases the amount of water per capita from 145 cubic metres to 340 cubic metres, according to Haddadin.

“This water is wasted by those who refuse to cultivate their lands,” he said, underscoring the importance of legally recognising green water as public property and offering landowners incentives to utilise it.

He also referred to the water resources that Jordan shares with other countries, including rivers and groundwater, calling for feasible agreements that address the needs of all parties without depleting their resources.

“I don’t know of any Arab country that successfully manages its groundwater basins,” he noted, adding that this can be addressed in Jordan by closing unauthorised basins and controlling the amount of water pumped from them to avoid increasing its salinity.

In his lecture, Haddadin also highlighted the pressures the government faces from international sponsors such as the World Bank, which call for rerouting agricultural water to serve households and factories, thus achieving higher financial gain and meeting the increased demand.

Succumbing to these pressures will lead to economic burdens and social degeneration caused by uncontrolled migrations to the cities, he warned, underlining that “the government should stand firm against these pressures”.

He concluded his lecture by calling for the establishment of a non-profit Arab forum or group that addresses water and energy issues and offers solutions for the challenges facing the region.