Amman has tried to buy 30 million cubic metres of water, but its neighbour has refused the sale because of the same situation, aggravating tensions

Jordan is denied by Syria over water sales in the midst of drought

AP/ODED BALILTY - Aerial view shows the Jordan River estuary of the Sea of Galilee

Jordan is suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. The government is turning to its neighbours for help to alleviate the effects, but one of them has refused to help. Syria has refused to accept Jordan's offer to buy and sell, denying it 30 million cubic metres of water at a time when the Kingdom desperately needs it. 

There has been tension in Jordan over this response. Jordan's Water Minister Mohammed al-Najjar said during a parliamentary session that he had a conversation with his Syrian counterpart. The latter explained that Syria is also suffering from a water shortage and therefore cannot afford to sell water.

The issue of this resource between the two countries has been the subject of debate for years. Jordan has been demanding for years that Syria implement the Yarmouk River Water Investment Agreement signed in 1987. Amman points out that Damascus has exceeded this contract by increasing the number of dams in its favour and this has caused Jordan to have almost no water, affecting its rights. 

The Jordanian authorities claim that 375 million cubic metres of water that fully belong to Jordan have been lost since this situation has arisen. They also point out that the Syrian government has seized surface and groundwater before it reaches its neighbour.

Campamento de Rukban, entre las fronteras de Jordania y Siria

This is evidenced by the amount of water held by each. Through the Yarmouk River, Syria holds more than 270 million cubic metres of water. But it is worth mentioning that almost the entire length of the river, 80%, is in Syrian territory, while Jordan holds 20%.

Even so, all indications are that Syria is taking advantage of this situation and depriving its neighbour of water. Damascus faces international charges for withholding water from the river in its favour. This has been demonstrated by the construction of 42 dams and the drilling of thousands of wells that are in breach of the agreement signed with Jordan by every measure. 

Jordan is experiencing an unprecedented water crisis. On top of all this conflict, the country is one of the poorest in terms of water sources and this year the weather conditions have not brought much rainfall to the area, so water levels are low. 

Water in these regions of the Middle East is a problem and a conflict to find. And if the countries that suffer from it do not help each other, this can lead to tensions that can lead to much more serious situations.

Jordan also has signed agreements with Israel for the purchase of water. According to the latest figures from June, Amman is buying 50 million cubic metres from its Hebrew neighbour. This is because the two countries reached a peace memorandum and Israel supplies up to 55 million cubic metres per year of water from the Sea of Galilee through the King Abdullah Canal to Amman. The state charges the kingdom a penny per cubic metre, but Jordan still needs Syria's help to meet its needs. 

El presidente de Siria, Bachar al-Asad
Proposals for resolving the Syrian-Jordanian water conflict

This problem has been going on for decades. In 2016 there was a major moment of tension between the two countries that had to be settled through international arbitration. Jordan exploded because it was not receiving enough water and asked that the water flow should start from Syrian dams, but Syria rejected this response.

The conflict was not resolved and is still under debate. Despite this, diplomatic relations between the two countries appear to be increasingly normal after so many years of instability, but water rights are still up in the air because sharing water when both are in crisis is in neither country's interest.

Oman, one of the neutral countries in this diplomatic crisis, has proposed a solution. According to Muscat, electricity generation can be raised from the bottom of the dam in favour of Syria. Afterwards, Syria would have enough water and would have to allow for an increase in common dam flows with Jordan. But even so, this idea has not been implemented and everything is still at a standstill.