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Environment and health
The development of water resources for irrigation and expansion of the irrigated area, which is cultivated intensively, are causing negative impacts, such as:
- Soil erosion on steep lands due to heavy rains and flood leads to an increase in sediment loads in the dams-reservoirs and the washing away of fertile top soils in the Highlands and the Side Wadis. Heavy silt loads in KAC water resulted on many occasions in a suspension of water pumping in the Deir Alla Amman domestic water supply project during some winter months with heavy rainfall.
- Deterioration in the quality of irrigation water is caused by sewage-treated wastewater, particularly in drought years. Improving the treatment process and installing desalination plants are expected to overcome this problem.
- Heavy use of pesticides, insecticides and animal (poultry) fertilizer is deteriorating the soil, affecting the quality of agricultural products, mainly vegetables, and causing a fly problem in the JRV in winter, which is annoying the inhabitants and threatening tourism.
- Plastic sheets used in the greenhouses and in drip irrigation (mulch) affect the fertility of the soil.
- Overexploitation of groundwater due to intensive irrigation reduces the yield of the tube wells and increases pumping costs due to a drop in the water table of the aquifers.
- There is a large drop in the water surface in the Dead Sea and a dangerous reduction in its water area. The level of the Dead Sea was said to fall each year by 85 cm due to extensive water use in the Jordan Basin.
- There is a lack of sewage water networks in towns and villages in the JRV and other irrigated areas. Houses depend on septic tanks to handle sewage water.
On the other hand, some positive impacts of irrigated agriculture include:
- access to improved and safe drinking water facilities for the majority of the inhabitants in the JRV and other irrigated areas;
- expansion of the green cover;
- production of fresh vegetables all around the year;
- increase in the socioeconomic standard of people in the JRV due to the integrated development plan carried out by JVA in that region.
Much of Ammanís wastewater treated effluent is discharged in the Zarqa River and is impounded by the King Talal Dam, where it is blended with fresh floodwater and subsequently released for irrigation use in the Jordan Valley. The increased supply of water to Jordanís cities came about at the expense of spring flows discharging into such streams as the Zarqa River, Wadi Shueib, Wadi Karak, Wadi Kufrinja and Wadi Arab. The flow of freshwater in these streams was reduced as a result of increased pumping from the aquifers and the flow was replaced with the effluent of treatment plants, a process that transformed the ecological balance over time (MWI, 2002).
Contaminated water is a source of many human infections, causing diarrhoea and other diseases. In Jordan, the most common parasite causing diarrhoea is Entamoeba histolyca, while Salmonella and Shigella are the most common bacteria. Naturally, children are more exposed to such infections than adults.