World Water Monitoring Day – The Lower Jordan River graded Low in Quality and Quantity
October 18, Tel-Aviv
World Water Monitoring Day, held for the last 4 years on the 18th of October in 50 countries around the world, aims to raise public awareness as to how local water resources are being managed. (www.worldwatermonitoringday.org).
For the first time, on World Water Monitoring Day, a joint initiative has been taken by the Israeli Nature & Parks Authority and EcoPeace Middle East to measure the waters of the Lower Jordan River. As expected, the results are very harsh: Oxygen levels in the river water are almost half of what they should be and conductivity is three times higher than the waters of the Sea of Galilee. “The low level of oxygen and high level of salts tell us that this is not the natural state of the waters of the Jordan. These results reflect the untreated sewage and salt water from springs diverted from the Sea of Galilee – that are being dumped into the River” says Hillel Glazman, of the Nature and Parks Authority. “This pollution has long ago damaged the ecosystem of the River. The flora and fauna inherent in fresh water rivers are nowhere to be found”.
The poor results of the quality of the water, however, are only part of the danger facing the Lower Jordan River. There will also be a dramatic decrease in the actual flow of water in the River
Coincidentally, several days prior to World Water Monitoring Day, the Jordan Times newspaper reported the completion of the “Unity Dam”, a joint Jordanian / Syrian project on the Yarmuk River, the largest tributary to the Lower Jordan. This dam will catch the winter floodwaters that naturally flow into the Lower Jordan River making its way into the Dead Sea.
Presently, over 90% of the waters that once flowed into the Lower Jordan have been captured and diverted; 60% by Israel with the building of the National Water Carrier in the 1960’s, and the rest by dams built by Syria and the Jordanian King Abdullah canal. The completion of the Unity Dam will now leave the Lower Jordan River completely dry in the summer months with large stretches of the River dry in the winter as well.
Ironically, it is the sewage that is keeping the River “wet” at all!
Such has turned the Lower Jordan River – a River holy to millions of people around the world – into little more than a sewage canal.
The significance of capturing the waters of the Lower Jordan River is a death blow to the Dead Sea too, which is seeing a 1 meter per year decline in its water level and a dramatic receding shoreline. “A third of the surface area of the Dead Sea has already been lost over the last 50 years as a result of the diversion of its waters, coupled with the activities of the Mineral Industries in the South”, says Michal Sagive of EcoPeace Middle East. “We are witnessing the destruction of the ecosystem of the Dead Sea right before our eyes, by the opening up of dangerous sinkholes along the shoreline, and the devastation of the ecology of the Lower Jordan River and its surroundings. The solution must be to return some of the diverted waters back into the River and in that way ‘save 2 birds with one stone’: to Rehabilitate the Jordan River and to Save the Dead Sea”.
The building of the Unity Dam is another example of the lack of appropriate management plans for the shared water resources of the region. In the absence of cooperation, we are choosing short-term solutions that create long-term devastation.