Jordan to Host International Water Conference

May 28, 2004

Jordan will host a five-day international conference on water management starting Sunday, for participants to discuss ways to develop and improve water supplies.

For years analysts predicted that a water war would break out in the already troubled Middle East, where most countries have been plagued by drought and scarce water resources. Jordan ranks among the world's 10 poorest in water.

"Water scarcity and water shortages are not just a Middle Eastern phenomenon," Jordan's Water and Agriculture Minister Hazem Nasser said in a statement posted on the website of the May 30 to June 2 International Water Demand Management Conference.

"The future of water resources around the world is under pressure from population growth, industrial needs, environmental degradation and rapid urbanization.

"As supply options become more limited, all consumers as well as managers of water systems need to become more aware that the future lies in greater efficiency of use," Nasser said.

The conference will gather on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea. The lowest body of water on Earth, its very existence is threatened as Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians divert for agriculture the Jordan River, which feeds it.

Experts from around 30 countries will attend the conference organized in cooperation with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which has poured tens of millions of dollars into water schemes in Jordan over the years.

There will be 21 workshops with themes ranging from ways to deal with droughts, to planning a balanced approach to water resources, detecting leaks, home plumbing, recycling water and demand reduction.

Speakers from the United States, Japan, Canada, Europe and Arab countries will share their experiences in research as well as state-of-the-art technologies on water conservation.

On the sidelines of the conference, an exhibit will be held of water conservation equipment, including software that can be used both for residential and commercial use.

Organizers expect 1,500 participants to attend the conference, during which 100 working papers on global water issues will be submitted for debate.

Jordan, a largely desert country, will also inform delegates of its own track record in managing and developing its scarce water resources.

Water consumption in Jordan, which has a population of just over five million, stands at 160 cubic meters (5,650 cubic feet) per capita, compared with an Arab average of 1,200 cubic meters and 6,000 cubic meters globally, according to officials.

In February, Jordan and Syria launched a long-awaited dam project on the two countries' Yarmuk River border that will provide the kingdom with desperately needed water for human consumption and agriculture and boost power supplies to Syria.

In May, Jordan laid the cornerstone for a multi-million-dollar water treatment and waste-water treatment plant with the help of USAID.

But efforts to seal an agreement among Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians to build a canal that would channel water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to save it from disappearing remain elusive, as politics and funding stand in the way.

Source: AFP