AMMAN, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Jordan will intensify its crackdown on water thefts along the national pipelines amid increasing water shortage in the country mostly made of desert, a government official said Tuesday.
"Protecting available water resources is a major priority for us in Jordan, which is the second most water-stressed country in the world and saving each drop of water is a top priority for us," Omar Salameh, spokesperson of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, told Xinhua on Tuesday.
In Jordan, the per capita share of water currently stands at 85-90 cubic meters per year, which is less than 10 percent of the water poverty line according to the UN's international water standards, he said.
Pressure on the available water resources in Jordan has been exacerbated by the influx of 1.3 million Syrian refugees and the continued decline in rainfall due to global warming, he said.
According to Salameh, Jordan has so far received around 50 percent of the usual precipitation during this winter season.
Until Monday, the country's 14 dams held 40.3 percent, or 112.5 million cubic meters (mcm), of their total storage capacity of 280.7 mcm, according to the ministry.
"Almost every week, we detect violations on water sources and our efforts will be intensified because the situation is becoming more difficult," the official said.
According to figures by the ministry, the water loss due to rampant water thefts is estimated to amount to about 9.58 mcm in 2022.
Water theft is a long-standing problem in Jordan. In 2013, the Ministry of Water launched a campaign to crack down on water violations. As of the end of 2022, authorities had sealed more than 1,300 illegal wells.
Those who are charged with violations of water resources face a jail term of up to five years and fines of up to 7,000 Jordanian dinars (about 10,000 U.S. dollars), according to the water laws and regulations.
"The stolen water is either resold or used to irrigate crops in some areas," according to the official.
Waleed Al Qeshawi, head of the Sustainable Agriculture Association in Northern Shuneh, welcomed the measures to protect water resources.
"Farmers are not receiving sufficient water they need and this is affecting production and increasing the burden on them," he told Xinhua Tuesday.
"As we severely suffer from water shortages, stealing water should not be tolerated at all and farmers support all measures to crack down on stealing water as this is unfair to all of us," he added.
According to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the agricultural sector in Jordan consumes around 50 percent of the available water resources. This percentage covers only 60 percent of the actual needs of the agricultural sector.
Measures to crack down on water violations as well as interventions to ensure efficient management of water resources are top priorities in Jordan, which is expected to suffer greatly from the impacts of climate change in the coming decades, Salameh said.
According to the recently launched Fourth National Communication Report on climate change predictions, Jordan is expected to witness a rise in temperature, less precipitation and erratic rainfall, drought, and flash floods, among others.
Due to reductions in precipitation and increases in temperature, the potential evapotranspiration is very likely to increase between 5.8 percent and 11.1 percent by the end of the century.
Forecast precipitation intensities show that future heavy rain days are rare. According to the report, the number of heatwave events is also significantly increasing over time. ■