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Case Study: Zarqa River, JORDAN

The Zarqa river is the second main tributary to River Jordan after Yarmouk river, and thus one of the most significant basins in the country with respect to its economical, social and agricultural importance. The area of its basin is about 4,120 km2 from the upper northern point to its outlet near King Talal Dam, and part of five governorates, namely; Amman, Balqa, Jarash, Mafraq and Zarqa and it hosts three major cities (Amman is the largest) where about 40% of the country population are living (2,720,000) from a total of 5.34 million people.

The basin is the most complex resource system in Jordan. At the lower end of the basin the King Talal Dam (KTD) has a capacity of 85 MCM. The stream flow conditions of river are governed by torrential discharge characteristic with very low base flow that ranges from 0.5 to 1.0 m3/s contrasted with irregular flood caused by rain storms of about 54 MCM.

The groundwater safe yield of the basin is about 90 MCM while the abstraction rate amounts to about 158 MCM. Part of the deficit in Baqa and Amman-Zarqa aquifers may be compensated from seepage due to leaks in pipe network or excess irrigation. Amman area receives about 40 MCM from the basin groundwater for municipal uses. Industries in the basins pump about 8 MCM. Extractions for irrigation are estimated at 110 MCM. The annual effluent of the wastewater treatment plants totals about 60 MCM where most of it flows into KTD while only about 5 MCM are used in the basin and along the river banks for restricted irrigation. Municipal use, including Amman, totals about 180 MCM/yr. Industries use about 8 MCM coming mostly from groundwater.

The primary issues are water shortage, competition between sectors, groundwater depletion, water quality deterioration and reuse in the Jordan Valley, highland industries, landscaping and agriculture.

The main stakeholders are: the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, Jordan Valley Authority, Farmers Associations, Department of Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture as well as industries and farmers in the Jordan Valley and the highlands.

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