Jordan-Israel Water Deal Announced

YERUSHALAYIM -

A water exchange deal between Israel and Jordan is in the works that will help both countries meet their needs for fresh and desalinated water, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Jordan intends to sell Israel water produced by a future desalination plant, in return for the right to buy an increased amount of fresh water from the Kinneret, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced.

The announcement came during a press conference for the first phase of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit project, to consist of a desalination plant of 100 million cu.m. in capacity. According to the agreement with Israel, Jordan will sell Israeli the desalinated water at 1 Dinar (NIS 5) per cubic meter and would purchase the Kinneret water at 0.3 Dinar (NIS 1.5) per cubic meter, Ensour said.

The $980 million desalination plant will draw water from the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba, Ensour explained. The desalinated water will be rerouted further south toward Aqaba.  A portion of it,­  and additional water from the Al-Wehda Dam on the Jordan-Syria border,­  has been allocated for the country’s densely populated northern areas, Ensour said.

The project has met resistance in Israel from evironmental groups, and in Jordan mainly due to the high cost of the project.

A World Bank feasibility study­  released in January approved the project, but with reservations. Experts raised concerns that the influx of seawater and brine into the Dead Sea will alter the appearance and quality of the water, and could degrade the region’s ecology and hydrogeology.

But Jordan’s Water, Irrigation and Agriculture Minister Hazem Nasser cited overriding considerations. The project is a program in Jordan’s strategic interest, he said, which the kingdom has “no choice” but to implement due to the problem of water scarcity. Water shortages are growing by 7 percent annually, he said.