By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – People found guilty of water theft will now be jailed and fined under new amendments to the Penal Code, which went into effect as of July 1, Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar said on Tuesday.

The step seeks to address water loss, a major concern to the ministry, which ascribes the majority of water loss to thefts and violations targeting water networks. Officials say that neighbourhoods south of Amman are hot spots of water theft.

Under a new amendment to Penal Code No. 16 for the year 1960, Article 456 was cancelled and replaced with a new one, Paragraph B, which stipulates that individuals found guilty of stealing water from main or domestic networks, sabotage of these networks, illegal pumping or tampering with water meters will be imprisoned for three to 12 months and fined JD100-JD500.

“These people should end their violations and rectify their situation because there are stricter regulations now that lead to jail and we will be serious about enforcing them,” Najjar told reporters during a meeting at the ministry.

Under the amendments to Article 456, Paragraph D stipulates that if the crime is repeated, violators will be imprisoned between four and 24 months and fined JD200-1,000.

An ongoing field study being carried out by three companies in Amman to measure water loss in the capital showed that the status of water networks in Amman is “excellent”, and that physical water loss is at normal levels, Najjar said.

“The study indicated that water loss is highest in the south of Amman because some people illegally pump water from water networks to irrigate their crops,” the minister said yesterday.

“There are nine areas in south Amman where water loss is the highest, estimated at 20 per cent out of the total water loss in Amman of 35 per cent. Faulty meters and pipes will be fixed, and violations will be prosecuted,” Najjar noted.

The ministry will launch a campaign next month in a bid to end all violations on water networks, the minister said, urging people to report to authorities.

“If the ministry’s teams face resistance or violence from violators it will seek help from security authorities,” Najjar added.

Water theft is being carried out on a larger, more organised scale, costing the capital thousands of cubic metres of water, according to officials at the Jordan Water Company (Miyahuna).

Last month, the company uncovered four suspects in Muwaqqar and one in Um Al Amad in south Amman, who were found to have been illegally pumping 100 cubic metres per hour over a period of at least six months.

South Amman is considered one of the capital’s main sources for drinking water as its water wells generate 11-12 million cubic metres annually, according to Miyahuna, which supplies over 11,000 customers in south Amman.

Najjar also warned yesterday against some owners of water tanks who draw water from unlicensed sources and sell it to people as drinking water.

“Some people take advantage of the hot weather during summer and fill up their tanks from water sources that are not monitored by authorities or designated for irrigation and sell the water to people, which causes health problems,” the minister said, calling on people to verify the source of their drinking water.