By Hana Namrouqa – May 23,2016

This recent photo shows tanks allegedly containing stolen water and hidden in the backyard of a building in a north Amman neighbourhood. The owner of the building, the suspect, is facing water theft charges (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Water and Irrigation)

AMMAN — The authorities on Monday ended a case of water theft in Kamaliyeh neighbourhood in Sweileh, under which over 1,200 cubic metres of water was being diverted daily and illegally sold to people, according to an official.

The owner of a building from which water services have been suspended previously allegedly installed a two-inch pipeline on a main carrier that supplies the area with water, the official said, noting that he was diverting the municipality’s water to several tanks hidden in the backyard of his building.

“More than 50 cubic metres per hour were being diverted from the main carrier. The violator was filling more than 10 tanks and selling the stolen water to people,” the official told The Jordan Times.

A team from the ministry, the Jordan Water Company (Miyahuna) and security forces inspected the location in Kamaliyeh, north of Amman, based on reports about a water violation in the area, as well as residents’ complaints of disrupted water supply, the official said.

“The violation was ended and authorities are now interrogating the suspect for further legal action,” he added.

Since the launch of a national campaign to end water theft in the country in 2013, authorities have detected 22,305 violations on water mains and resources, and sealed 747 illegal wells, according to official figures.

The ministry banned the drilling of wells in 1997 to curb random pumping of water and preserve aquifers from depletion and salinity. Its estimates indicate that there are still 1,100-1,200 illegal wells still operating across the country.

Sealing illegal wells and stopping attempts to dig new ones across the country have resulted in saving 80 million cubic metres (mcm) of underground water over the past three years, while ending violations on water networks and resources has led to saving 30mcm of freshwater that was being diverted from main carriers, according to recent figures from the ministry.

The amended Water Authority of Jordan Law stipulates stiffer 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, or be involved in the digging of wells without obtaining a licence, face a prison sentence of up to five years and fines up to JD7,000.

In addition, violators that cause damage or loss to water and wastewater projects are jailed for up to three years and fined up to JD5,000, according to the amendments.

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