By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Pumping from the Karameh Dam desalination plant has started at a total capacity of 2,400 cubic metres per day, an official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said on Saturday.

Following two-months of experimental operation to ensure that the desalinated water is fit for human consumption, the plant started catering to residents of Deir Alla in the Jordan Valley as of last week.

The high percentage of salinity in water stored at the Karameh Dam makes it unfit for drinking or agricultural purposes, Rateb Odwan, project director and head of the water quality directorate at the Jordan Water Authority, said yesterday, noting that the plant seeks to utilise the saline water.

“In its first phase, the plant will initially desalinate one million cubic metres (mcm) of water, which will be distributed to residents of Karameh and Southern Shuneh to cover their needs of water for drinking purposes only,” Odwan told The Jordan Times.

He added that under the project’s second phase, scheduled to start in May next year, the plant’s capacity will be expanded to four million cubic metres per year.

“Water per capita in Deir Alla has increased from 110 litres per day to 130 litres per day since the plant started operation,” the water official said, noting that it also helped ease pressure on water sources in Shuneh.

The plant was constructed on a build-operate-transfer basis by a local company.

Constructed in Wadi Mallaha 10 years ago, the Karameh Dam was primarily designed to store surplus winter flow and excess water streaming down from the King Talal Dam and the Yarmouk River.

Water Ministry officials previously said the dam needs to be flushed around five times a year to keep salinity at acceptable levels below 6,000 parts per million.

The Karameh Dam, the second largest in the Kingdom, currently holds 18mcm of its total storage capacity of 52mcm, according to Odwan.