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As a result of increasing population pressure in recent years, Jordan has needed to pursue both a course of exploitation of its natural resources, and increasingly, an attempt to protect its environment. Development activities in agriculture, industry, housing, and tourism are actively encouraged to sustain the country's economy. While these development activities are an economic imperative, it is equally true that there are resultant environmental impacts. One of these impacts is increasing levels of chemical and biological water quality parameters in many of the shallow springs in central and northern Jordan. One such example is the Qairawan spring, the raw water supply for Jerash, a municipality in the karst highlands of north Jordan.

CDM International Inc. (CDM) has been providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI), Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ), and Ministry of Health (MOH) through the Jordan Water Quality Management project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This project includes a source water protection plan to improve raw water quality of the Qairawan water treatment plant, which has been shut down in the past due to elevated bacteria levels in the raw water.

Now in its second phase, our project initially delineated the springs' catchment; analyzed data trends, pollution sources and mitigation measures; solicited community input; and outlined a preliminary watershed management plan. Phase II involves an effort to institutionalize the approach to watershed management within MWI, WAJ and other agencies by implementing a pilot source water protection program for the Qairawan watershed.

Wastewater dominates as a source of pollution-cesspits (unlined underground tanks) are used widely, and where sewer systems exist, households may be improperly connected or not connected at all. There is also concern that some existing cesspits were created in natural sinkholes; a house-to-house survey revealed that many have never been pumped in 20+ years of operation. Other sources such as urban runoff, fertilizers from agricultural return flows, and solid waste disposal appear to be secondary. Pollution sources are non-point making the identification of specific source locations and mitigation measures difficult. The karst hydrogeology adds complexity to an already complicated situation, making conventional thinking about contaminant pathways and predictions of travel-time invalid.

One of the key lessons learned from the first phase is that all recommendations should include public awareness campaigns, at the community level. These should be geared towards “behavior change” among the general population and the business sector. It is recognized that behavior change may only come about if adequate and accepted alternatives can be provided, particularly those that involve land use planning and restriction of activities within groundwater protection zones (which are needed).

Because watershed protection is a process rather than a product, and is a long-term commitment rather than a once-off project, the second phase attempts to demonstrate and show by practice, what the process of watershed protection actually involves, on a dayby- day basis. The goal of developing and initiating the process is to develop the necessary methods, procedures and routines to replicate the process in other watersheds.

The Qairawan pilot is a test case for implementation of source water protection in Jordan. Phase II objectives are as follows:

develop the technical and institutional capacity of MWI/WAJ and MOH for watershed protection;

demonstrate how local community representatives, in cooperation with local and governmental authorities, can be integrated into the decision-making process toward improved watershed protection practices; and

provide an important first step towards the long-term objective of reducing contamination levels at the Qairawan spring.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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