(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/IAN AND WENDY SEWELL)
Bringing a historic deal to fruition, Israeli and Jordanian government officials on Thursday afternoon are signing a bilateral agreement to exchange water and jointly funnel Red Sea brines to the shrinking Dead Sea.
The full-fledged agreement, which is being signed on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea on Thursday afternoon, is the result of a memorandum of understanding signed among Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian officials on December 9, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
According to Thursday’s agreement, Jordan and Israel will share the potable water produced by a future desalination plant in Aqaba, from which salty brines will be piped to the Dead Sea. In return for its portion of the desalinated water in the South, Israel will be doubling its sales of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) water to Jordan on the countries’ northern border.
Signing the agreement on Thursday is National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, alongside his Jordanian counterpart, Water and Irrigation Minister Hazim El-Naser.
"In Washington, we just declared that we are going to sign an agreement,” Maya Eldar, an advisor to Shalom on the project, told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday, over the phone from the signing ceremony. “This is a real agreement that is going to make sure the cooperation and relationship between Israel and Jordan is going to last."
More specifically, the agreement involves the construction of a 65- to 80-million cubic meter desalination plant in Aqaba, from which Israel would be able to buy some 35 m.cu.m. of water to convey to its desert south, Eldar explained. In return, Jordan would be able to buy an additional 50 m.cu.m. of water from Lake Kinneret annually, roughly doubling its current allocation and quenching of the increasingly thirsty northern portion of the country.
In addition to all of these water swaps among the neighbors, the agreement involves the construction of a 200-kilometer pipeline to carry residual salt brines from the Aqaba desalination plant to the depleting Dead Sea.
While the original December 2013 memorandum of understanding also called for Israel to enable the direct sale of an additional 20 m.cu.m. of water from Mekorot national water company to the PA, Eldar said that this issue is being worked on separately.
"We are going to provide water from the Israeli system to the Palestinians at points where they need water, and we are going to start discussing with them as soon as possible,” she said.
In addition to the commitment to the water exchanges and Red Sea to Dead Sea pipeline construction, the signatories on Thursday also committed to the formation of a Joint Administration Body for the project, where relevant officials from both countries will be equally represented, Eldar explained.
Calling the agreement signing an extension of the 1995 Israel-Jordan peace treaty, Eldar stressed that “this continues the chapter on water.”
“It’s a very historical moment,” she told the Post. “We’ve been working for so many years on this, and this is the first cooperation that is real – it’s for many years ahead.”