The Jordanians remember 1998 as a particularly challenging year. A severe water contamination crisis led to a political crisis, as water from the central treatment plant flowing to homes of consumers far exceeded safety standards. The ensuing parliamentary investigation resulted in the firing of the Jordanian prime minister and minister of water and irrigation.
The government was also replaced and the fear of political collapse was enough of a concern then-King Hussein was forced to intervene from his hospital bed in the US.
The strict water control regime the Jordanians instituted is well known to Mekorot, which transfers water to our neighboring state as part of Israel’s commitment in the peace accords. The company has taken every necessary measure to assure the high quality of the water flowing to Jordan; one of those methods involves their transfer via a pipe that prevents any contact with either land or air.
An agreement signed in 2010 between Israel and Jordan committed the former to transferring up to an additional 50 million cubic meters to the Hashemite Kingdom on top of a similar amount already flowing from the Sea of Galilee, in return for Jordan sending water to Israel from a new desalination plant to be built in Aqaba.
The Jordanians will receive drinking water in return for farm water sent to Israeli agricultural concerns in the Jordan Rift Valley. The agreement is critical for the Kingdom, which has taken in millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war vastly increasing its demand for water.
Gali Avraham, a manager at Mekorot, says: “Israel is preparing to supply water to Jordan even before the desalination plant is completed. We were asked in the agreement to establish new infrastructure as a backup to the existing system which will double the supply flowing to the Jordanians from 50 million cubic meters to 100 million cubic meters in the coming years.”
In preparation, Mekorot is readying the laying of a new water pipe, designed to minimize obstruction to the agricultural land through which it will pass.
A central component of the peace accords
“Mekorot supplies water to the Jordanians based on the 1994 peace accords,” says Avraham, “And one of the central components of the agreement between the two countries involved water. The historic accords dedicated an entire section to the distribution of water.
“Even the international border between the countries was set based on this agreement; it called for Israel to transfer Jordan 50 million cubic meters of water from the Sea of Galilee each year, with Jordan supplying in return a quarter of the waters from the Yarmouk River.”
Avraham stressed the importance of the agreement to Jordanian citizens. “We are talking about drinking water, and we take great care to assure its quality, both because of the stringent standards adopted by Jordan and the contractual obligations between the states. This water is used by most of Amman and its surroundings. Life there is very basic residents of Amman receive water once a week, and must live with that supply for the entire period. Their water is kept in tanks on the roof. If you want more water, it costs a fortune. The situation there is starkly different than in Israel where you just need to open the tap. We take great pains to assure the water is of the highest quality.”
The necessity of the new water line is clear, but when will it open?
“The plan for expanding the existing system is being advanced. We are currently in the licensing stages ahead of the permit phase. At the end of the process, we will hit the ground and start building the system.”
Mekorot contributed to the report.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 21, 2016
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