By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – As the rainy season comes to a close, storage levels remain disappointing at the Kingdom’s major dams, which hold 44 per cent of their 217-million-cubic-metre (mcm) capacity, an official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said on Saturday.

Although several recent khamsini depressions have brought heavy rain, storage at the dams is insufficient to meet the rising demand for potable and irrigation water, according to officials, who said the dry earth absorbs the rainwater before it reaches the dams.

Khamsini weather conditions affect the eastern part of the Mediterranean an average of once a week during a 50-day period between March 21 and May 10. The name is derived from khamsin – meaning 50 in Arabic – because it usually occurs during a 50-day time frame.

“By Saturday morning, the country’s major dams, excluding Wihdeh, held around 107mcm of water,” Ministry of Water and Irrigation Assistant Secretary General and Spokesperson Adnan Zu’bi told The Jordan Times yesterday.

The Wihdeh Dam, where water storage is experimental, currently holds 6mcm of its 110mcm storage capacity.

In order to describe the water levels at the country’s dams as “comfortable”, they should store at least 130-140mcm of water by the end of winter, according to water officials.

At this time last year, the major dams held over 150mcm, while the country received 131 per cent of its long-term annual average rainfall, according to ministry figures.

The Jordan Meteorological Department recently stated that the current wet season is the driest since the winter of 1998-1999, when the country received only 44 per cent of the long-term annual average of eight billion millimetres of rainfall.

By mid-March this year, 68 per cent of the long-term annual average had been registered, according to the ministry.

In December, the ministry announced a package of emergency measures designed to conserve water this summer, including banning the cultivation of summer crops, reducing irrigation water to farmers in the Jordan Valley and securing additional water resources such as privately owned wells.