By Hana Namrouqa

MADABA – Warning that their district is on the verge of an “environmental crisis”, Madaba residents on Monday complained about an insufficient water supply and called for the entire governorate to be connected to the sewage network.

During a meeting with Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohmmad Najjar and Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) Secretary General Munir Oweis yesterday, they claimed that many households do not receive water according to the distribution programme, while others only receive water for two hours every week.

“Forty per cent of households in Madaba are not connected to the sewage network… we will witness an environmental crisis which will impact public health,” one of the residents said at yesterday’s meeting at the town hall.

Pumping from the Heidan wells in Madaba was suspended earlier this month, when lab tests indicated that the water was polluted with sewage.

Ministry officials suspect that a sewage tanker unloaded the contents of one household’s cesspit in nearby valleys.

Nine Heidan wells generate 1,450 cubic metres per hour daily, 600 cubic metres of which are channelled to Amman, according to Ministry of Water and Irrigation officials.

Madaba Governorate, with a population of over 150,000, is situated 33 kilometres south of the capital. Water per capita in Madaba stands 133 cubic metres, while the water loss percentage is considered one of the lowest in the Kingdom – estimated at 31 per cent compared to 34 per cent in Amman.

Another Madaba resident said her house had not received any water over the past few days.

“I’m a mother and a housewife, and I have not had one drop of water in my house for days… this is unacceptable, we can’t live this way,” the woman added.

Scarce water resources in Jordan, categorised as the fourth poorest country in the world in terms of water availability, forced the Kingdom in the early 1980s to apply the water distribution programme, under which households receive water on a rotation basis for a few hours during a certain period of time, usually a week.

Najjar, who yesterday toured the governorate’s water wells, pumping stations and wastewater treatment plant, said the ministry will address the residents’ complaints.

He told them that “JD4-JD5 million was allocated for the rehabilitation of Madaba’s water networks and pumping stations to improve water supply and reduce water loss”.

The rehabilitation will start in 2012, Najjar said, adding that the water situation in Madaba will further improve by 2013, when the Disi Water Conveyance Project starts operations and supplies Amman with 120 million cubic metres of water annually.

“Once the Disi project kicks off, water supply in Madaba will improve because we will stop pumping its water to Amman,” the minister said at the meeting.

During an interview with Jordan Television yesterday, Najjar also noted that the ministry is considering transferring the management of Madaba’s water and wastewater services to the Jordan Water Company (Miyahuna).

“…We will look into this plan at the end of the year with the aim of improving water services in the governorate,” the minister highlighted.

Madaba, which is home to the earliest maps of the Holy Lands, Mount Nebo, Um Rassas and a host of lesser-known historical and cultural gems, is considered a major tourist attraction.