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The search for water

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Jordan is one of the five driest countries in the world. Annual consumption per capita (calculated as renewable water resources withdrawn) is about 170 cubic metres, compared with 630 as the world average, 800 across the Middle East/North Africa region – and 1,650 in North America. Almost a third of the water used in Jordan comes from non-sustainable or non-renewable sources. Three decades of pumping from the once-abundant Azraq oasis has brought it to the point of collapse. The River Yarmouk sports a large dam shared by Jordan and Syria, and all the major valleys leading down to the Dead Sea are now dammed in an effort to stop water draining into the salty lake – which has contributed to its rapid shrinking. Every winter the local newspapers publish reports tabulating levels of water storage in the country’s reservoirs, while Jordanians anxiously wait for rain. Water rationing is in place in Amman over the summer. A scheme to pipe water to Amman from desert aquifers at Disi is already under way, and plans are afoot for desalination plants on the Red Sea, possibly – and very controversially – to be powered by a nuclear plant.

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