By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – With fresh water resources dwindling across the country, authorities are encouraging Jordan Valley farmers to turn to saltier solutions when it comes time to water their crops.

The Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) will soon embark on a pilot project utilising saline water for irrigation purposes to reduce the amount of fresh water consumed in the country – listed as the fourth water-poorest nation in the world.

“Due to the shortage of fresh water for irrigation purposes and in order to expand agricultural activities in the Jordan Valley, we are planning to use saline water for irrigation,” JVA Secretary General Saad Abu Hammour told The Jordan Times.

According to Abu Hammour, the use of water with different salinity levels for crop irrigation requires a careful balance.

“In case saline water is used for crop irrigation, it is vital to apply developed technical methods to protect the soil from rising salinity levels,” Abu Hammour underscored.

Saline water ranging between 2,000-20,000 parts per million can be used to irrigate various salt-tolerant crops, including palm trees, field crops, forest trees and specific types of vegetables, he noted.

The Jordan Valley’s total agricultural area consists of 250,000 dunums, 170,000 of which are planted with vegetables and the remainder with bananas, grains and citrus fruits.

Ministry of Water and Irrigation figures indicate that over 60 per cent of crops in the Jordan Valley is irrigated by treated wastewater, while the remainder receives water from the 110-kilometre King Abdullah Canal, supplied by the Yarmouk River.

Abu Hammour noted that Jordan will benefit from the experience of the Dubai-based International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, which has developed techniques to develop saline water resources for agricultural purposes.

According to Abu Hammour, a JVA delegation has recently visited the centre, with the pilot project set to be implemented “soon”.