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Jordan, Saudi Arabia sign deal to protect shared aquifer

By Hana Namrouqa - May 02,2015 - Last updated at May 02,2015

AMMAN — Jordan and Saudi Arabia have signed an agreement governing “sound management and protection of the shared Disi aquifer”, which supplies the capital and other governorates with a quarter of their water needs, according to government officials.

Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser and Saudi Minister of Water and Electricity Abdullah Bin Abdul Rahman Al Hussein signed the deal in Riyadh on Thursday, according to an official at the Ministry of Water and Irrigation.

The agreement identified a 10-kilometre buffer zone on both sides of the Jordanian-Saudi borderline where drilling wells for producing water is prohibited, while wells drilled beyond the buffer zone must adhere to shared technical standards, the official said.

In addition, both countries agreed to take all necessary measures that prevent the contamination of the aquifer to ensure the safety and sustainability of the shared Jordanian Disi aquifer and the Saudi Saq aquifer, the official said.

A joint Jordanian-Saudi committee was formed to oversee the implementation of the agreement, the official said, adding that members of the committee will meet every six months or when the need arises.

In a statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times, Nasser said that the Disi-Saq aquifer is vital because its water is fossil.

"There is no direct replenishment of the aquifer via rain because of the lack of rain in its area and the high evaporation rate. The aquifer's recharge process is only partial and is restricted to Um Sahem and Ras Al Naqab areas in Jordan," Nasser said.

The aquifer's fossil water dates back to 10,000-30,000 years and has been stored when the area witnessed plenty of rainfall back then, Nasser noted.

Disi aquifer water is a main water source for drinking and industrial purposes in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba, Nasser said, noting that work is under way to transfer Disi water to the northern governorates.

The Disi aquifer, located south of the country, expands over 4,000 square kilometres in Jordan and around 65,000 square kilometres in Saudi Arabia, according to Nasser, who added that the agreement also protects water projects which benefit from the Disi aquifer, including the Disi Water Conveyance Project.

Carried out on a build-operate-transfer basis, the Disi project entailed the construction of a 325 kilometre pipeline to convey 100 million cubic metres annually from the ancient Disi aquifer in southern Jordan to the capital.

The project started pumping water to Amman in 2013 via a pipeline, which passes through several water stations in Maan, Tafileh, Karak and Madaba.

“The project was implemented at a cost of over $1 billion, therefore it is imperative to protect the source that supplies the Disi project,” the minister noted.

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