By Raed Omari

AMMAN – Despite the lack of rain and a serious water shortage, it is still too early to declare a water-related state of emergency, a senior official from the Jordanian Farmers Union (JFU) said.

JFU President Ahmad Faour told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday that it is still uncertain whether the Kingdom is experiencing a drought as winter is only beginning and rainfall is always “probable”.

“In previous years, we used to have rains during this time of the year,” Faour said, adding that “farmers are hoping that December will be a rainy month”.

The JFU president explained that farmers started planting winter crops on October 15 and, since that time, their farms have been irrigated by water from the Kingdom’s dams.

“Winter crops rely entirely on rains and if that rain never comes, we resort to the dams’ water storage to prevent damage to the crops,” he said.

However, according to Faour, this reliance on stored water has “caused a serious depletion of strategic water reserves stored for any possible water shortage emergency”.

Faour noted that if the dry weather persists, a water shortage emergency should be declared.

“But in a country like Jordan with no adequate water resources, emergency measures will not be that effective,” he warned.

According to studies conducted by the Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD), 2010 has been the driest year in the country since 1992.

The JMD has said, however, that the recent hot weather and lack of rainfall is “normal”, attributing the dry and warm weather to recurring Red Sea troughs rather than climate change, although some experts have said the change in weather is an effect of global warming.

The government announced “precautionary” measures to deal with the lack of rainfall this year, noting that it will reduce the amount of water pumped to farms in the Jordan Valley and the Kingdom’s southern regions, but will not change the quantity supplied to households.

The Kingdom’s main dams currently hold 37 per cent of their total capacity.

Jordan, which is considered the world’s fourth water poorest country, suffers an annual water deficit of 500 million cubic metres and per capita share of water does not exceed 150 cubic metres per year, well below the water poverty line of 500 cubic metres per year.