By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Desalination of sea water is the solution to Jordan’s water crisis, particularly since demand for the precious resource surges by 6 per cent every year, Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar said on Sunday.

Over the past three decades, the depletion of underground water has surpassed the safe limit by 200 per cent, thus impacting the quality and quantity of water in the aquifers, he said, underscoring the importance of protecting current water resources for future generations.

“We will not be able to manage after the year 2022 if we do not desalinate water,” Najjar said, noting that declining amounts of rainfall and surging demand for water leaves Jordan with no choice but to desalinate.

The minister made the remarks during a workshop at Amman Arab University, where he underscored that the current water crisis necessitates people to reduce their consumption.

“In the 1980s, water sources in the north of the country used to generate 350 million cubic metres (mcm) per year; now the amount has dropped to below 60mcm,” Najjar said, referring to the Yarmouk River, which is over-exploited by Syria and Israel.

The minister noted that because Jordan is a country with limited water resources and decreasing rainfall, several dams were built to harvest rainwater, highlighting that 60 per cent of rainfall is collected in dams.

He added that several water mega-projects, such as the Jordan Red Sea Project (JRSP) and the Disi Water Conveyance Project, seek to address the Kingdom’s acute water problem.

“The master developer of the JRSP will be announced by the end of the year,” Najjar said.

Under the first phase of the JRSP, to be implemented in five stages, 210 million cubic metres (mcm) of water will be desalinated by 2018, expanding to 700mcm annually in later phases.

The first phase entails conveying water from the Red Sea through pipelines to a desalination facility that will be built in Aqaba. Water generated from the plant will be distributed to the port city and development projects in the area.

The project entails extracting 2,150mcm of water from the Red Sea every year; 930mcm will be desalinated and 1,220mcm will be channelled into the shrinking Dead Sea, in addition to generating 180 megawatts of electricity from projected hydropower stations.

Meanwhile, Amman Arab University President Saeed Attel said yesterday that water shortage is a critical problem worldwide.

“Growing populations coupled with an increasing demand for water will possibly make water resources the reason for future wars,” he said during the workshop.