By Mohammad Ghazal

AMMAN – The Ministry of Water and Irrigation will soon meet with farmers and well owners across the country to highlight the importance of rationing the use of depleting underground water resources, an official said on Sunday.

In light of this year’s disappointing rainy season, the ministry will meet with farmers and water well owners this month to stress the sustainable use of groundwater, which accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s potable water, according to Adnan Zu’bi, the ministry’s assistant secretary general and spokesperson.

“We aim to acquaint farmers with new technologies that help ration water use. We are also keen on familiarising them with the water situation in the Kingdom,” Zu’bi told The Jordan Times over the phone on Sunday, adding that as part of the awareness sessions, authorities will urge farmers to plant less water-intensive crops.

The official noted that authorities have destroyed several “illegal water wells” since the beginning of the year, stressing that the ministry will not be lenient with those found illegally pumping water.

Currently, Jordan extracts 450 million cubic metres (mcm) annually from aquifers, Zu’bi said, adding that the sustainable level stands at 280mcm.

Overpumping is a major problem facing aquifers in the Kingdom, he said, noting that the country’s long-term water strategy seeks to reduce pumping to safe levels.

Official figures indicate that there are around 12 renewable and non-renewable aquifers in Jordan, spread over an area of 633-1,856 square kilometres.

Several main underground aquifers have dried up and others are on the way to complete depletion. Al Duleil aquifer is now completely dry, Al Jafer is almost dry after eight years of pumping, while the Azraq aquifer is expected to run out of water in 15 or 20 years if random pumping continues, according to water experts.

The excessive extraction of water from the wetland has caused water levels to drop by 12-15 metres below ground level, according to environmentalists.

In 2009, Jordan’s consumption of water stood at about 940 million cubic metres (mcm) of which 500mcm were from groundwater basins, 102mcm from treated water and the rest from surface water resources.

In addition to over-abstraction, the water level in these basins is falling by one metre every year, according to the ministry.