A Jordanian senior official affirmed this week that his government supports the proposed Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit and regards it as an essential step in battling the severe water shortage in Jordan.
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Saad Abu Hamour - secretary general of the Jordan Valley Authority and Jordanian head of the Israel Jordan Joint Water Committee - assured participants of the Ashdod Sustainability Conference this week that Jordan would support the proposed conduit from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. The so-called Two Seas Canal is a joint Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian project intended to provide potable water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It would also bring sea water to stabilize the Dead Sea water level.
Abu Hamour's statements follow previous reports in the Jordanian press that Jordan was not committed to full implementation of the project. Jordanian officials have said recently that they are still examining the feasibility of the conduit, but Abu Hamour was unequivocal this week in declaring Jordanian support for the Two Seas Canal.
Under the proposal, Jordan would supply water to Israel's south from its Aqaba desalination plant in return for water from the Sea of Galilee, which would be used by Jordan's main population centers. The project has been examined by the World Bank and would include water desalination for Jordanian use, with the brine being directed to the Dead Sea.
Abu Hamour said the conduit would be part of a long-term solution to his country's water shortage as well as an important project for regional cooperation.
The crisis in Jordan has led to water rationing, he said, with each neighborhood receiving water for only 48 consecutive hours every week. During that time, residents collect water for use during the rest of the week. The Jordanian government subsidizes water for home consumption and agriculture.
Jordan receives 35 million cubic meters of water from Israel every year, according to the peace treaty signed between the two countries. This is in addition to the water it pumps from a huge groundwater reservoir near its border with Saudi Arabia. But Abu Hamour said that the reservoir - which was supposed to supply water until 2022 - is likely to be exhausted several years earlier due to the influx of more than a million and a half refugees from Syria since the civil war began. He called on the international community to assist Jordan in tackling the water shortage.
Abu Hamour spoke on a panel with Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of Friends of the Earth-Middle East. The organization has opposed the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit, and has suggested that other possibilities be examined. Nevertheless, Bromberg said Friends of the Earth-Middle East was pleased that Abu Hamour had the opportunity to discuss the matter at the Ashdod conference.
"This is an example of cooperation between the two states, which is important from the environmental perspective. We don't always see things eye to eye, but there are some issues that we agree upon, including the need to rehabilitate the water reservoirs in the region."