AMMAN: Jordan has announced that it has secured more than $2.2 billion to finance its water carrier project, described as the largest infrastructure venture in the kingdom’s history.
Minister of Water Mohammad Najjar has said that the National Water Carrier Project (Aqaba-Amman Water Desalination and Transport Project) would cost about $2.5 billion, but “that is not a final estimate.”
The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation has recently pledged to provide an investment loan of up to $400 million to finance the National Water Carrier Project, Minister of Planning Nasser Shraideh said in a statement to Arab News, to be added to the $1.8 billion pledges in grants and loans from partners announced in March.
The National Water Carrier Project, which the government said will be ready by 2027, will provide about 300 million cubic meters of desalinated water annually.
The project consists of a seawater withdrawal system following the highest environmental standards to ensure the quality of water and sustain the marine ecosystem.
Additionally, the project includes a desalination plant based on the southern shore of Aqaba, pumping stations and tanks, and a 450-km pipeline.
Water Ministry Spokesperson Omar Salameh explained that the Aqaba-Amman project was based on the “build-operate-transfer system,” adding that Jordan was in “dire need of such project to help alleviate its longstanding water woes.”
The water ministry cited the “dramatic rise in the population growth rate and the impact of the refugee crisis” which, it said, has worsened Jordan’s water woes and placed it below the water poverty line. The ministry has previously said that Jordan’s annual water resources were about 90 cubic meters per person, below the international threshold of 500 cubic meters per person.
Jordan is classified as the world’s second-most water-scarce country. The total population in Jordan was estimated at 11.1 million people in 2021 with a growth rate of 1.23 percent, according to official figures.
According to the UNHCR, Jordan remains the second largest refugee host per capita worldwide with roughly 750,000 refugees of 57 different nationalities.
In September, the government warned that the kingdom’s water reserves had hit record lows, with major dams being less than 15 percent full.
In previous remarks to Arab News, Salameh attributed the cause of the limited water supply to this year’s “long dry season, the rising temperature and the accompanying high water consumption for household usage and irrigation.”
The spokesperson said that the volume of water currently stored at the kingdom’s 14 major dams was “only 43 million cubic meters of their total capacity of 336.4 million cubic meters.”
Jordan has recently confirmed that its request for 30 million cubic meters of water from Syria was rejected.
Najjar said in late July that Syria had rejected Jordan’s request under the deal signed between the two countries, attributing the reason to the northern neighbor also facing a water crisis and to the political situation in Syria’s southern regions bordering the kingdom.
Jordan and Syria signed the Yarmouk Water Agreement in 1987 to institutionalize water cooperation. Under the deal, signed in Damascus, the two sides agreed to build the Al-Wehda Dam on the borders between the two countries to also generate electricity.
Under the deal, Syria receives 75 percent of the electricity generated from the dam while Jordan has “all the sovereignty over its water storage.” But Jordan has always accused the Syrians of building water reservoirs and large agricultural projects on the sides of the Yarmouk River, thus allowing only small quantities of water to flow to the Al-Wehda Dam.
However, in October last year, Jordan announced that it had purchased an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel outside the framework of the 1994 peace agreement and what it stipulates in water quantities.
In April last year, Jordan confirmed that it had received an additional quantity of 8 million cubic meters from Israel.
Under the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty, Israel is committed to providing Jordan with 55 million cubic meters of water a year.
In November last year, Jordan, Israel and the UAE signed a declaration of intent to begin deliberations over the feasibility of an energy-for-water project.
The Jordanian government, which faced criticism at home from the parliament, political parties and other civic forces for signing the deal, said that Jordan is to receive 200 million cubic meters of water annually under the project.
International media have reported that a massive solar-energy farm will be built in the Jordanian desert as part of a project to generate clean energy that would be sold to Israel in return for desalinated water. Axios said that the solar facility would be built by Masdar, the renewable energy company owned by the Emirati government.
The plans reportedly call for the solar farm to be operational by 2026 and to supply 2 percent of Israel’s energy requirements by 2030, with Israel paying $180 million a year that would be divided between the Jordanian government and the Emirati company.