Rehabilitation of the Jordan River crucial for Water Security in the Middle East
2013-09-03

PRESS RELEASE

Jordanian-Israeli-Palestinian rehabilitation of Jordan River crucial for water security in the Middle East

Stockholm (3rd September, 2013)

Middle East water security experts gathered at the World Water Week in Stockholm officially welcomed Israel’s recent decision to pump 1000 cubic metres a day back into the highly degraded Lower Jordan River, but warned that this amount is only symbolic and much more is needed from all parties sharing the basin to rehabilitate the river to its minimum ecological flow.

At a side-event arranged by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and WEDO / Friends of the Earth Middle East, experts from both organizations warned that the lack of a sustainable and integrated regional approach to the Jordan River's management, exacerbated by climate change, population growth, and continuous over-exploitation for over than 60 years has caused the devastating destruction of the river.

Although in favor of recharging the Jordan River with a clean and stable water supply, Friends of the Earth Middle East has repeatedly said that the 30 million cubic metres promised by Israel is a step in the right direction but will not be sufficient. Between 400 and 600 million cubic metres (mcm) of water is needed to replenish the Lower Jordan, and as Israel diverts an estimated 50% of the river's flow, it should be allocating at least 220 mcm.

SIWI, WEDO/ FoEME, and the Global Nature Fund (GNF) are leading the effort to advance the adoption of a regional management approach through an EU-funded project they are implementing in cooperation with the Global Nature Fund, to draft an NGO Master Plan for the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River. The regional plan will be ready in 2015 and will suggest national plans for Jordan and Palestine synchronized with the Master Plan being developed by the Israeli government. Together the national plans will establish the region's first ever regional master plan for the Lower Jordan River, the aim of which is to save the river, create economic opportunities in the Jordan valley, and achieve a higher level of water-security for the three riparian states.

The plan’s initial parameters were recently scrutinized by local stakeholders in Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian towns, and international experts, and adjusted accordingly by Royal HaskoningDHV, a leading international planning firm which is leading a team of regional and international consultants to draft the master plan. The plan looks at cultural, religious, political, economic, tourism, environmental, and security pre-conditions for reaching a scenario of full-cooperation by 2050. The master plan will serve as a guide to investment opportunities to support sustainable transboundary management of the Jordan River

“Building trust, transparency, and the harmonization of goals and capacity building efforts are key elements for a successful trans-boundary management plan of the Jordan River,” according to Dr. Alain Maasri, Head of Unit, Water and Living Lakes at GNF.

Necessity, not an option
“Cooperation is not an option. Without stepping up real, practical and tangible cooperation there will be no water security in one of the world’s water-poorest regions” said Dr. Anders Jägerskog, Director of the Transboundary Unit at SIWI.

Even if other “mega projects” to provide water to urban and agriculture hubs in Jordan and Israel are implemented, any solution to achieve water security that does not include the rehabilitation of the Jordan River will not be sustainable, neither ecologically nor politically, FoEME Country Directors, Munqeth Mehyar (Jordan), Gideon Bromberg (Israel), and Nader Khatib (Palestine) concurred at the seminar today.

The Red Sea-Dead Sea Conduit Canal Project is one such example. Recently, Jordan, Palestine and Israel decided to press through with the implementation of the Red-Dead Canal linking the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, and providing hydropower and desalinated water along the way. The Red-Dead project study of alternatives, facilitated by the World Bank to complement the project’s Feasibility Study, concluded that while the desalination of sea water from the Red Sea as part of the project would significantly improve urban and agricultural access to water, the Red – Dead should be complemented with rehabilitation of the Jordan River.

The study of alternatives concluded that the optimal solution to the severe water shortage problem in Jordan, Israel and Palestine is a combination of alternatives: “combining desalination from Red-Sea and the Mediterranean, water importation, water recycling and conservation that could fully restore the Lower Jordan River, stabilize the level of the Dead Sea above its current level and supply the additional water needs of Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Other combinations include changes in crop patterns and technical changes to the mineral extraction industry.”

For more information about the Lower Jordan River Master Plan, click here:

For more information about the World Water Week in Stockholm, visit: www.worldwaterweek.org

For press inquiries, please write to: rami.abdelrahman@siwi.org