By Hana Namrouqa – Aug 01,2016

AMMAN — The authorities have dismantled a large-scale water theft operation, which was diverting and reselling 6,000 cubic metres of fresh water per day, an official said on Monday.

An “investment company” had been diverting water from a main source which supplies hotels at the Dead Sea for over a year, according to a source at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, who asked not to be named.

“The company was diverting the water via large pipelines and reselling it to [companies] at the Dead Sea,” the source told The Jordan Times.

The stolen water is equal to the daily share of 75,000 individuals, since the daily water per capita share in Jordan is around 80 litres, according to official figures.

“The Jordan Valley Authority [JVA] filed a complaint in 2015, and last month, a court ruling was issued obliging the company to remove [its infrastructure]…,” the source said.

In July, the JVA and security forces oversaw the removal of a 1km pipe that diverted 250 cubic metres of water per hour as well as pumps and equipment, according to the source, who added that the “company will be paying back the cost of the diverted water as well as fines”.

“The cost of the diverted water is being calculated,” the source said, without specifying whether those responsible would face prison.

Water theft is recognised as an economic crime under articles 3 and 4 of the Economic Crimes Law. Currently, courts are looking into more than 1,000 cases of violations involving water resources and networks, according to the ministry.

The amended Water Authority of Jordan Law stipulates stiffer penalties against those who abuse any element of the water system.

Those who abuse water carriers and mains, wastewater, pumping, purification or desalination stations; or cause the pollution of water resources, pipes or stations used for drinking water; and dig or are involved in the digging of wells without obtaining a licence, will be jailed for up to five years and fined up to JD7,000.

In addition, violators of water and wastewater projects will be jailed for up to three years and fined up to JD5,000, according to the new amendments.

All penalties stipulated under the new law are doubled in the case of repeat offences.

Under the ongoing campaign against water violations, which was launched in 2013, authorities have ended around 23,000 violations on water mains and resources and also sealed 758 illegal wells in cooperation with security forces.

Water theft in Jordan is blamed for 70 per cent of water loss, according to the ministry, which indicated that around 110 million cubic metres of water have been saved since authorities launched the campaign.