AMMAN — Authorities on Tuesday said they had ended nine major violations on main carriers and underground water in one day in Ruweished in Mafraq and Muwaqar in east Amman.

Security forces from the Public Security Department and the Gendarmerie joined the Ministry of Water and Irrigation in morning raids targeting seven separate locations where suspected water theft and violations of the network were taking place, according to an official at the ministry.

In Ruweished, which is considered the farthest populated city in the eastern desert of the country, authorities raided a location where they suspected the drilling of an illegal well, the official said.

“By the time the teams and security forces arrived to the scene of the violation, those involved had fled the scene and taken with them the drilling rig. After inspecting the site, we discovered that two illegal wells had already been drilled,” the official told The Jordan Times, noting that authorities seized the two wells and are currently tracking down the owner/s of the land as well as any person involved in the violation.

Sealing illegal wells is part of the ministry’s ongoing campaign against violations on surface and ground water resources, as well as networks and water infrastructure, according to the ministry, which said that preventing the digging of new wells is “at the core” of the ministry’s daily inspections across the country.

Groundwater is the source of about 70 per cent of drinking water in Jordan, which caused the depletion of most of the Kingdom’s aquifers and the rise in salinity levels. To this end, the ministry banned the drilling of wells in 1998 to limit random pumping of water in order to preserve aquifers from further depletion and salinity.

Since the launch of the ministry’s nationwide campaign to end water theft and violations on the network in the summer of 2013, over 1,063 wells have been sealed, and more than 65 drilling rigs have been seized and confiscated, according to recent official figures.

Meanwhile in Muwaqar District, which has more than 100,000 inhabitants, authorities removed seven illegal fixtures on main carriers that supply people in Muwaqar with their daily shares of water, according to the official at the ministry.

“Thousands of cubic metres of fresh water were being diverted to nearby farms to fill up agricultural pools for the irrigation of crops and also for filling up tankers and selling the municipality’s water to citizens,” the official noted.

Residents of both Muwaqar and Ruweished complained to the ministry of the suspected violations, the official said, expressing the ministry’s appreciation for the public’s high awareness and cooperation in stopping violations on the country’s water and infrastructure.

Since the ministry launched its campaign, more than 38,213 violations on water networks and resources have been stopped. Over 286 water-related cases are currently at court against violators, while the ministry collected JD3.45 million in cost of water pumped from illegal wells, according to the ministry.

Stiffer penalties for infractions against the water system have been introduced under the amended Water Authority of Jordan Law. Those who abuse water carriers and mains, wastewater, pumping, purification or desalination stations, cause the pollution of water resources, pipes or stations used for drinking water, dig or are involved in the digging of wells without obtaining a licence face a prison sentence of up to five years and fines of up to JD7,000.

In addition, violators of water and wastewater projects can be jailed for up to three years and fined up to JD5,000 under the amendments while all penalties are doubled in the case of repeat offences.