Jordan water crisis worsens as Mideast tensions slow action

Jordan Valley

SHARHABIL, Jordan (AP), Octber 30, 2017 — From a hillside in northern Jordan, the Yarmouk River is barely visible in the steep valley below, reduced from a once important water source to a sluggish trickle overgrown with vegetation. Jordan’s reservoirs are only one-fifth full, a record low, and vital winter rains are becoming more erratic.

Jordanians don’t need scientists to tell them that they live in one of the world’s driest countries in the center of the planet’s most water-poor region.

But recent studies suggest the kingdom, a Western ally and refugee host nation with a growing population, is being hit particularly hard by climate change, getting hotter and drier than previously anticipated. One forecast predicts as much as 30 percent less rain by 2100.

“We are really in trouble if we don’t take action in time,” said Ali Subah, a senior Water Ministry official.

But addressing the problem would require cross-border cooperation, a commodity as scarce as water in the Jordan River basin shared by Jordan, Israel, the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon.

Jordan’s flagship Red Sea desalination project, which includes a water trade with Israel, has faced repeated delays, most recently because of a diplomatic crisis that led to a scaling back of cross-border contacts since the summer.

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