Official says most recent overflow not expected to affect farms downstream

By Hana Namrouqa – Mar 17,2019

AMMAN — For the first time since its construction over four decades ago, the King Talal Dam in Jerash overflowed thrice during the same wet season, according to a government official, who said that the Kingdom received “excellent” amounts of rain this season.

For the third time in a month, the 75-million-cubic metre (mcm) dam reached its full capacity, the official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation said on Sunday, indicating that floodgates were opened to release excess water.

“We expected the dam to overflow again following the weekend’s heavy rain. The ministry alerted all concerned authorities and also issued warnings to farmers and the public to stay away from areas downstream of the dam,” the official told The Jordan Times.

By Sunday afternoon, the ministry raised the dam’s floodgates, which unleashed 40 cubic metres of water per second.

“This is the first time that the dam has reached its full capacity and overflowed thrice during the same period over the past four decades. When the dam overflowed on March 1, it was the first time in 15 years! A week later, it overflowed for the second time.” the government official said.

When the dam overflowed on March 1, greenhouses and farms were destroyed by the floodwaters released from the dam. Farmers sustained massive losses, prompting Prime Minister Omar Razzaz to visit them in the Jordan Valley and promise government compensation.

When asked whether farms downstream of the dam were damaged this time as well, the senior government official said that farms were not expected to sustain losses following Sunday’s overflow.

“We do not expect farms to be affected this time due to a number of reasons, including the fact that our teams cleaned and cleared the stream down the dam in a way that [ensured] the flood water did not reach the farms as much as possible. We issued warnings to farmers and we have placed sand barriers to prevent the flooding of adjacent farms,” the official said.

More importantly, the government official said, the amount of water released from the dam on Sunday was much less than when the reservoir overflowed on March 1.

“Today, a total of 40 cubic metres per second were overflowing from the dam, whereas on March 1, a million cubic metres of floodwater were reaching the dam every hour, and 120 cubic metres were overflowing every second,” the official said, noting that the floodgates are raised when the dam reaches its full capacity to preserve the dam from damage.

The country received heavy rain between Wednesday and Saturday nights, when two separate weather events affected the country. The first was a depression on Wednesday night and the second was a depression and a cold air mass on Saturday, according to the Jordan Meteorological Department.

Following the rainfall between Wednesday night and Saturday, the country’s major dams received 7.5mcm.

“The King Talal Dam in Jerash overflowed on Sunday and the 8.1mcm Waleh Dam in Madaba [has] overflowed several times already this winter, on Saturday,” the official noted.

The dams now hold 54 per cent or 181mcm of their total capacity of 336mcm, the ministry’s official said, noting that during this time last year, the Kingdom’s dams held 40 per cent or 137mcm of their total capacity.

In addition, the ministry’s up-to-date figures show that Jordan has already received its 8.1 billion cubic metre annual average of rainfall. Jordan, during the same period last year, had only received 76.5 per cent of its annual average of rain, according to the figures.