By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Ministry of Water and Irrigation on Saturday said farms’ consumption of underground water in Shobak is monitored and violators are bound to be held accountable.

Owners of apple farms in Shobak, about 170 kilometres to the south of Amman, pump water from their licensed wells according to the underground water regulations, which determine the quantity of pumped water and the price of each cubic metre, ministry’s assistant the secretary general and spokesperson, Adnan Zu’bi, said yesterday.

“If owners of the apple farms use water from licensed water wells, then they are not breaking any law. However, if the farmers are found to have drilled wells without obtaining a licence, then the ministry shuts the wells down,” Zu’bi told The Jordan Times over the phone.

According to the underground water regulations, unlicensed water wells drilled before 2002 can still be used, but their owners are obliged to install water metres that determine the pumped amounts.

“The ministry shuts down all water wells that were drilled without a licence after 2002 in order to prevent underground aquifers from becoming depleted, which increases water salinity,” said Zu’bi.

Shobak, a district of Maan Governorate with a population of around 13,000 people, is situated 1,300 metres above sea level. It has an average of 150-350 millimetres annual rainfall. It is famous for beehives and apple and fruit orchards, which started booming in the 1980s.

Around 10,000 dunums are planted with apple trees, as well as peach, cherry and apricot trees.

Scores of Shobak residents on Friday protested against the apple and fruit farms in their town, claiming that they are depleting the underground water, which, they claim, reduces the water per capita share in Shobak.

“The ministry monitors farmers’ use of underground water. If they are found to pump water illegally, they can expect to be held accountable,” Zu’bi said.