By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Evaluation of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Programme’s economic feasibility study and the environmental and social impact assessment will conclude later this year, a senior government official said on Thursday.

The implementation of the Red-Dead project will commence when results of the studies are finalised and evaluated, Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Najjar noted in a lecture at the University of Jordan (UJ) yesterday.

Organised by the UJ’s water and environment research and study centre, in cooperation with the university’s department of environmental and applied geology, the lecture aimed at reviewing the challenges of the country’s water sector and government plans to address water scarcity.

The Red-Dead project entails pumping one billion cubic metres of water annually from the Red Sea into the rapidly depleting Dead Sea. It is part of international efforts to save the Dead Sea, which has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.

During the lecture, attended by water and geology experts, Najjar outlined ongoing water projects to offset water supply and demand, noting that the Jordan Red Sea Project (JRSP) is currently under way.

“The six consortia which qualified to serve as master developer of the water mega-project will present their proposals by the end of this year in order to select the winning alliance,” the minister said.

Under the first phase of the JRSP, to be implemented in five stages, 210 million cubic metres (mcm) of water will be desalinated by 2018, expanding to 700mcm annually in later phases.

The first phase entails conveying water from the Red Sea through pipelines to a desalination facility that will be built in Aqaba. Water generated from the plant will be distributed to the port city and development projects in the area.

The project entails extracting 2,150mcm of water from the Red Sea every year; 930mcm will be desalinated and 1,220mcm will be channelled into the shrinking Dead Sea, in addition to generating 180 megawatts of electricity from projected hydropower stations.

Najjar added that work is ongoing on the Disi Water Conveyance Project, which represents a short-term solution to the Kingdom’s acute water problem.

“Construction work on the Disi project is on track and according to schedule… Once completed in 2013, the project will help ease water problems in the country’s governorates,” the minister highlighted.

Being carried out on a build-operate-transfer basis, the Disi project will provide the capital with 110mcm of water via a pipeline, which will pass through several water stations in Maan, Tafileh, Karak and Madaba.

Under the project, which started in 2007, 64 wells will be drilled, 55 of which will be used for the generation of water, while nine will serve as piezometer wells to measure the elevation of water.

Najjar underscored yesterday that the Jordan Valley Authority, which is affiliated with the ministry, is planning to build new dams in different regions to store much needed water.

“A national plan is currently being formulated to build several dams including the Karak, Ben Hammad, Lajjoun and Zara-Maeen dams, at a cost of JD80 million,” the minister said.

Dams, though expensive to build, are vital for the Kingdom to secure its water needs, according to experts.

The Kingdom’s 10 major dams are the King Talal, Wadi Al Arab, Sharhabil, Kafrein, Wadi Shuaib, Karameh, Tannour, Waleh, Mujib and Wihdeh. They have a total capacity of 325mcm of water.