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Cablegate: Jordan Prepares for Potential Summer Drought - Again

VZCZCXYZ0015
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAM #0409/01 0381431
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071431Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1732
INFO RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 0996
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS 3786
RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 1885
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 5774
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 3511
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT 2782
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 4836
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUEHDOI/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC

UNCLAS AMMAN 000409

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/RA, AND OES
STATE PASS TO USAID
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL
USDA FOR FOREST SERVICE/INTERNATIONAL
INTERIOR FOR INTERNATIONAL/WASHBURNE
CAIRO FOR VIALA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAGR EAID PGOV PREL JO SY IS
SUBJECT: Jordan Prepares for Potential Summer Drought - Again

REF: A) Amman 228
B) 07 Rome 2518
C) 07 Amman 668
D) 06 Amman 8401

(U) SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. (SBU) Summary: The Secretaries General of the Ministry of Water
and Irrigation (MWI) and the Jordan Valley Authority conveyed to
ESTH Officer in separate January 24 meetings a clear sense of an
impending summer water crisis. Lower than average rainfall has led
to Jordanian dams being filled at 37% of capacity as of January 24
-- roughly 11.5% lower than 2007. (A January 29-31 blizzard in
Jordan increased dam capacity to 40.5%.) The MWI expects it highly
likely that it will need to declare a drought by early March in
preparation for a summer crisis. Drought control measures could
include additional water rationing, reducing irrigation (reducing
water for agriculture), and buying water from private
wells/farm-units. Water tariffs, which include subsidies for
agricultural use, are likely to increase to cover MWI's operational
and maintenance costs. MWI further applauded the improved political
climate for discussion of contentious water allocation issues with
Syria (ref A). It is unlikely, however, that Syria can help relieve
Jordan's summer drought since Syria itself is facing acute water
shortages. End summary.

A Dry Country Grows Increasingly Drier
--------------------------------------

2. (U) Jordan, one of the driest countries in the world, has long
been suffering from a critical water resource crisis (ref D).
Moreover, the 2007-2008 winter has not been kind to Jordan. As of
January 24, 2008 Jordanian dams were filled at 37% of capacity - a
total of 79.46 million cubic meters (MCM) out of a total capacity of
217.9 MCM. (If one included the 110 MCM Unity dam - which is only
filled at 10 MCM - this figure would be even lower at 27% of
capacity (ref C)). In comparison, on January 24, 2007, the dams
were filled at 105.57 MCM or 48.4% of capacity. The 11.5% decrease
represents a serious threat to Jordan's ability to cope with the
summer demand. Typically, the rainy winter provided Jordan the
respite to increase its water resources to cope with increased
summer demand. Despite a heavy, sustained snowfall from January
29-31 which added roughly 7MCM or 3.5% to Jordan's dams, the season
has been dry and the risk of a summer drought remains significant.

Summer Drought
--------------

3. (SBU) MWI Secretary General Khaldoun Khashman believes it highly
likely that Jordan will need to declare a summer drought if the
dams' water storage continue to lag behind 2007 levels. The
decision on declaring a summer drought, to be made by GOJ
stakeholders who meet on a monthly basis to review water resources,
will likely occur early next month. (MWI noted that the last
"official" drought was declared 6-7 years ago.) Drought measures
would include increased water rationing (most parts of Amman
currently get water 1-2 days/week which fills storage tanks);
reducing the water delivery for agricultural use to 30-35% of normal
levels; and, MWI buying water from private well owners to cover
municipal water requirements.

4. (SBU) Khashman noted that in case of a summer drought, there
could be additional financial repercussions for the GOJ which is
already struggling to pay for three months of subsidies for
petroleum products and barley, an expense it had hoped to eliminate
at the start of the year. Landowners in the Jordan Valley often
have water rights that accompany their farmland. If their water
resources are reduced during a drought, they might seek compensation
from the GOJ. NOTE: Khashman is referring to the customary practice
of the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA) delivering water based upon
cropping patterns. A farmer has no right to water until he plants a
crop. Once the crop is in the ground the JVA is obligated to
deliver water to the crop. If water is insufficient for all crops
planted, the JVA has to compensate farmers who do not receive water
-- in effect buy out the crop. This is not specified in the JVA
law, but there are cases wherein farmers have taken the JVA to court
and won a judgment. In recent years JVA has paid without
litigation. END NOTE.

No Shortage of Problems
-----------------------

5. (SBU) The GOJ currently subsidizes the agricultural sector which
consumes 65% of Jordan's water resources while contributing less
than 3% of GDP. JVA Secretary General Mousa Jamani defended the
need to allocate water for agriculture, highlighting that half a
million people in the Jordan valley rely on water allocations and
farming for their sustenance. Without this livelihood, they would
likely migrate and further strain the infrastructure of big cities
like Amman. NOTE: Many farms in the Jordan Valley use treated
wastewater for irrigation. The highlands, however, use
predominantly fresh water resources. END NOTE. Jamani noted that
the 10 MCM provided for industry is currently billed at $0.78/cubic
meter (cm), whereas the blended rate that most Jordan Valley farmers
pay is $0.00035/cm. The JVA is planning to raise its tariff
structure in 2008 to be able to cover all its operational costs.
(The Amman residential water rate is $0.7/cm for the first 20 cm,
and $2.1/cm for any additional water usage.) Jamani believes that
through frequent outreach, most farmers are prepared for and will
accept a tariff increase.

6. (SBU) Human resource issues also plague the MWI. Relatively low
government salaries, coupled with the pull of the Gulf countries
seeking technical and managerial skills, have led to an exodus of
talent from the MWI. Khashman bemoaned the brain drain from his
ministry noting, "even bad people get other jobs." The problem
directly affects the many donors (including USAID) who provide
capacity building for the water sector as the people they train
often leave within a few months.

Cooperation with Syria, Israel, and the Palestinians
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (SBU) MWI applauded the improved political climate for discussion
on contentious water allocation issues with Syria. The Jordan-Syria
water committee meets every three months, while technical officials
meet on a monthly basis. It is unlikely Syria can help relieve
Jordan's summer drought since Syria itself is facing acute water
shortages. Khashman estimated that Syrian dams are filled at only
30% of capacity. With USG support, MWI also continues its
cooperation with Israel and the Palestinians on technical water
issues through the EXACT Water Data Banks project (ref B). Under
the 1994 Peace Treaty, Jordan stores 20 MCM of excess water in Lake
Tiberias every winter and Israel returns to Jordan this water less
evaporation losses every summer. Over the last few years Jordan
has not been able to fill its winter storage capacity, but
nonetheless, has kept receiving the summer allocations from Israel.
NOTE: Under the Peace Treaty, Jordan is entitled to 10 MCM of
desalinated water from Israel from a desalination unit to be
completed by Israel. The desalinated water has never been supplied
but Israel is obligated by the treaty to supply Jordan the water
regardless. End Note.


Rivulets of Hope
----------------

8. (SBU) The MWI has several initiatives underway to balance water
demand and water supply: reduce administrative and physical water
leakages (already reduced from 53% to 42% with a target of an
additional 2-3% reduction annually); increase use of wastewater
resources; discontinue the issuance of new licenses for agricultural
wells; outsource billing and improve efficiencies; strengthen water
demand management efforts; and use new technologies such as meters
which can transmit data wirelessly for monitoring water usage in
private wells. USAID (the biggest donor in Jordan's water sector
with over $500 million over the last 10 years) and several other
donors continue to pay a key role in assisting MWI in its efforts.
USAID's water resources office recently held an offsite retreat with
key MWI management to discuss joint activities. Septel will outline

recent USG initiatives and achievements in supporting Jordan's water
resources management.

Visit Amman's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman

HALE

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