AMMAN — Jordan signed on Monday a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Israel and Palestine to implement the first phase of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project, according to an official statement.

Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser signed the MoU in Washington on Monday, where he stressed that the project is a purely Jordanian scheme, which will be built on Jordanian soil and run by the government of Jordan.

The plan will be implemented after the Kingdom consumed all possible solutions to address its water crisis, Nasser said, noting that it will help Jordan realise its national strategic interests.

“We have been working around the clock over the past six months to reach this historical agreement, which will provide Jordan with its water needs at reasonable prices,” Nasser said.

The Red-Dead project will also protect the Dead Sea, a global historical legacy and a vital religious symbol, Nasser said, noting that the salty lake in the lowest point on Earth is continuously shrinking.

“The project’s first phase will provide Jordan with 100 million cubic metres [mcm] of water annually at affordable prices… This amount will cover Jordan’s water needs during the next decade,” Nasser said.

Noting that the project will be expanded in accordance with the country’s increasing water needs, the minister added that the Red-Dead will channel 100mcm of brine into the Dead Sea.

Nasser said that the Kingdom’s “resilient efforts” during the project’s negotiations have resulted in securing Palestine with 30mcm of freshwater to cover its water deficit, especially in the south of the West Bank.

The minister said that the government decided to carry out the project’s first phase in accordance with the outcome of the World Bank-led economic and environmental studies, which called on the project’s three stakeholders (Jordan, Palestine and Israel) to start with a small project which will serve as a nucleus for the mega-scheme in the future.

“Under the agreement, implementation of the project will commence by the third quarter of 2014, when a desalination plant for the Red Sea water will be established in Aqaba and will be completely run by Jordan,” Nasser noted.

A total of 85-100mcm of water will be desalinated annually, the minister said in the statement, noting that seawater will be pumped out from an intake located in the north of the Gulf of Aqaba.

In addition, a conveyor will be extended to transfer desalinated water as well as a pipeline to dump the brine into the Dead Sea to stop its constant decline, estimated at one metre every year.

“Aqaba will receive 30mcm of desalinated water annually to cover the zone’s increasing development needs until the year 2040,” Nasser noted.

Meanwhile, Israel will buy its share of 50mcm of desalinated water from the project at cost value and will sell Jordan the same amount of water in the northern part of the Jordan Valley at a cost of JD 0.27 per cubic metre.

“This is a totally Jordanian project; all of its facilities will be constructed on Jordanian soil at a cost of $900 million for the first phase. The government is trying to secure part of the project’s cost via grants,” the minister said.

The project’s tender, based on a build-operate-transfer formula, will be floated during the third quarter of next year, Nasser noted.