Jordan, Israel work to overcome regional water deficit

'Post' learns Israel offered to desalinate water and pass it on to Jordan.

Water 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Water 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. While Israel's water crisis is severe and much publicized, Jordan's is much worse. Jordan is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world in terms of water per capita. Water runs there for just one day a week. The rest of the week, residents must carefully ration the water they have stored in rooftop containers. Israel has offered to desalinate water and pass it on, The Jerusalem Post has learned. "There has been a deficit for the last 10 to 15 years," Friends of the Earth Middle East Jordan Director Munqeth Mehyar told the Post. "And with this past dry year, I fear the authorities are drawing on our strategic reserve of aquifers and that's scary." The Jordanian Water Ministry has done a good job of meeting the needs of residents, industry and agriculture, he said, and has kept up a steady flow once a week. That very reliability prompted Mehyar to worry about the danger of depleting the strategic reserves. Jordan relies mostly on groundwater and the Jordan River for its water because there aren't many other rivers or lakes. Recently, Israel offered to desalinate water from the Mediterranean and pass it on, according to a source. Both another source and Mehyar confirmed that there had been rumors about utilizing Israeli desalination expertise. Mehyar added that he believed that Israel siphoned off water from Lake Kinneret as well, when it could, for the Jordanians. Israel and Jordan have been meeting regularly about water at the highest levels since signing the peace treaty in 1994. Under the treaty, Jordan is entitled to 50 million cubic meters per year from the Jordan River. Jordan's water minister was here two weeks ago for consultations with National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Another delegation of water experts from Jordan was here last week to learn about Israeli technology and techniques. The group, six men and four women, was not here to discuss transferring water to Jordan. The experts came as part of a program organized by CINADCO - The Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation. Under the program, Israeli and Jordanian water experts are to share their expertise in four week-long workshops- two here, two there - over the course of the year. Last week's was the second of four. Last year, Israelis went to Jordan to learn from its experts. CINADCO is the professional arm of MASHAV - The Center for International Cooperation in the Foreign Ministry. A source close to the Jordanian delegation told the Post that the point of the workshops was to compare and find solutions to the water crisis. "Both parties suffer from a shortage of water and search for solutions. We gained a lot of experience from the visit. We saw lots of practical lessons and projects. The impression is that these kinds of meetings and workshops should continue," he said. Jordan was focused on two main projects to alleviate the crisis, the source said. The first was the Red-Dead Canal project. The second was the Aldisi project to bring 100 million cubic meters from the south to Amman. The project has been ongoing for a decade at a cost of $600 million. From an Israeli perspective, the goal of the canal is to save the Dead Sea. The Jordanians, though, are much more interested in desalinating water from the Red Sea at the Dead Sea. If the project passes the World Bank's feasibility study, two-thirds of the roughly 1 billion cubic meters of water would go to Jordan and the other third to Israel and the Palestinians. In the face of water scarcity, both Israel and Jordan have developed very marketable expertise. The source close to the delegation said Jordanian experts are routinely consulted by the Gulf countries and the Arab world to the east. Israel, meanwhile, has been exporting its know-how to Europe. Fifty percent of all water technology deals in Europe last year involved Israeli companies.