By Hana Namrouqa

ZARQA – Dilapidated water and sewage networks in Zarqa Governorate will be revamped by 2015 to achieve a regular water supply and end flooding of wastewater, officials said on Monday.

“Tenders for sanitation projects worth JD130 million will be floated later this year, in addition to the allocation of JD60-JD65 million for wastewater treatment in the governorate,” Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar said yesterday, adding that the implementation of the rehabilitation projects is expected to commence next year.

He made the remarks during a meeting with Zarqa residents, deputies and heads of caretaker municipal committees, during which he reviewed the governorate’s water situation and the ministry’s plans to improve water supply and sanitation services.

The rehabilitation of water and sewage networks in Zarqa, where water loss stands at 48.6 per cent, will be carried out under a $275 million grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, benefiting the governorate’s 1.5-1.7 million population.

“The projects will be implemented in heavily populated areas, where water and sewage pipes have deteriorated. By the end of these projects in 2015, Zarqa will switch to a constant instead of intermittent water supply,” the minister noted.

Scarce water resources in Jordan, categorised as the fourth poorest country in the world in terms of water availability, forced the Kingdom in the early 1980s to apply a water distribution programme, under which households receive water on a rotation basis for a few hours during a certain period of time, usually a week.

“Zarqa is a heavily populated governorate with rich commercial and industrial activities. It suffers from pollution due to overflowing sewage networks; therefore the ministry is steering investments towards the improvement of water and sewage services,” Najjar highlighted.

Noting that water per capita share in Zarqa is adequate compared to other governorates in the Kingdom, the minister added that water amounts, mostly pumped from underground aquifers, will not meet rising demand after 2015.

“A pipeline carrying water from the Disi Water Conveyance Project will be extended to Zarqa and supply the governorate with 30 million cubic metres (mcm) of water annually,” he said.

“This will allow us to stop pumping from Zarqa’s underground aquifers and give them time to recover from depletion and rising salinity levels,” the minister added.

Scores of wells inside and outside Zarqa provide its residents and neighbouring governorates, such as Mafraq, with water, with 6,350 cubic metres pumped per hour, according to Ministry of Water and Irrigation figures.

Najjar said up to JD300 million will be spent on rehabilitating Zarqa’s water and sewage networks, highlighting that overflowing wastewater in the city is causing environmental and health problems.

Zarqa Governorate houses 52 per cent of the Kingdom’s industrial plants, and the Zarqa River, which emits foul odours during summer and attracts insects and rodents because of sewage and dumped waste, is severely polluted due to wastewater leakage, nearby factories, car wash stations, flooding manholes and sewer systems.

Stressing that addressing the heavily polluted river is a major challenge, Zarqa Governor Sameh Majali called on the ministries of water and environment to cooperate in order to resolve the problem.