By Hana Namrouqa – Jul 09,2015 – Last updated at Jul 09,2015

A farm and a swimming pool that were utilising water stolen from water mains via illegal fixtures (Photo courtesy of Water Ministry)
AMMAN — In the first ruling ever in the history of the water sector, the Amman Court of First Instance has sentenced a man to three-and-a-half years in prison and fined him JD333,000 for stealing water, a source at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said on Wednesday.

“The court ruling is unprecedented in the history of the water sector. It is also the first ruling to be issued by the judicial authorities that is based on the amended Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) Law, which was published in the Official Gazette on June 1,2014,” the source told The Jordan Times on condition of anonymity.

As part of the ministry’s nationwide crackdown on water theft, in February last year the authorities discovered that the offender had installed an illegal pipe on a water main and was diverting thousands of cubic metres of water to irrigate his farm in Jiza, south of the capital.

The court convicted the man of committing violations on public water projects and the main water network, in addition to obtaining water via illegal channels, the source said.

He added that the court treated the water theft as an economic crime under articles three and four of the Economic Crimes Law number 11 of the year 1993.

Currently, courts are looking into more than 1,000 cases of violations involving water resources and networks, according to the source, who noted that similar rulings will be announced.

In February last year, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said the government is committed to putting an end to all water violations, describing water theft as a form of corruption.

To this end, the government drafted new amendments to the WAJ Law, which stipulatestiffer penalties against those who abuse any element of the water system.

Those who abuse water carriers and mains, wastewater, pumping, purification or desalination stations; or cause the pollution of water resources, pipes or stations used for drinking water; and dig or are involved in the digging of wells without obtaining a licence, will be jailed for up to five years and fined up to JD7,000.

In addition, violators of water and wastewater projects will be jailed for up to three years and fined up to JD5,000, according to the new amendments.

All penalties stipulated under the new law are doubled in the case of repeat offences.

Under the ongoing campaign against water violations, which was launched in July 2013, authorities have sealed over 644 illegal wells, seized and confiscated more than 159 drilling rigs and dismantled over 16,072 illegal fixtures on water pipes and carriers.