by Hana Namrouqa | Aug 04, 2012

AMMAN — The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has issued a guide on the country’s aquifers, which calls for their protection as vital ecosystems, specialists said on Saturday.

The guide seeks to create “water education” among students and teachers, especially those living near aquifers and wetlands, such as Azraq Wetland and Mujib Biosphere Reserve, RSCN Spokesperson Omar Shoshan told The Jordan Times.

“The guide includes results of RSCN’s water education projects… it aims at raising awareness on the need to protect such vital ecosystems and encouraging students to adopt practices that protect aquifers and wetlands from pollution or depletion,” Shoshan said.

It also provides teachers with educational and environmental activities that address the importance of water for biodiversity.

Mervat Batarseh, head of the environmental education department at the RSCN, highlighted the importance of water education in a country that suffers from water scarcity.

“Many countries around the world that are rich in water resources are starting environment and water education programmes as a precautionary measure in the event of future water shortages,” Batarseh noted.

Wetlands, which are rich in biodiversity, continuously suffer from water depletion because population near such locations is higher, she stressed.

“It is vital to raise the awareness of local communities on the importance of wetlands and aquifers to their lives and to the ecosystems they support,” Batarseh highlighted.

The RSCN guide cites the situation in the Mujib Biosphere Reserve, where the area’s unique species and ecosystem are being negatively impacted by decreasing water levels.

According to RSCN experts, water levels in Mujib are dropping due to the diversion of streams feeding the valley to dams, which is driving away birds and threatening the survival of indigenous fish species.

Covering an area of 220 square kilometres, the reserve is home to seasonal and permanent rivers that flow through several valleys, as well as ponds and waterfalls.

But conservationists have warned that water pumping and improper farming practices are threatening the biosphere’s ecosystems.

Water levels on the reserve’s hiking trails — which involve both climbing and swimming — differ depending on the amount of rain during winter.

Meanwhile, the Azraq Wetland Reserve, a vital stop for migratory birds and the only home of the indigenous Aphanius sirhani fish, includes marshlands and natural pools and streams.

However, excessive extraction of water from the wetland, which started in 1980, has caused water levels to drop by 12-15 metres below the surface, leaving only 0.04 per cent of the marshland, which used to be rich with flora and fauna, according to experts.

More than 60 million cubic metres [mcm] of water is currently being pumped from the oasis on an annual basis; 25mcm is pumped to Amman and other cities and the remainder for irrigation, according to the RSCN.