Smart Water System Makes Jericho Bloom
One of the oldest cities in the world lies in the Jordan Valley just eight kilometers north of the Dead Sea. Jericho’s 23,000 inhabitants mainly rely on agriculture to sustain their daily lives.
The countless groves of citrus and palm trees and bananas are a welcome sight in the mostly desert landscape. It takes a steady supply of water to keep the plantings alive and thriving. But, water scarcity is a major problem in the arid climate of Jericho where summer temperatures often reach 113°F (45°C). Families must rely on wells and springs for cultivating the land, drinking and other domestic purposes. The largest of the five natural springs is Ein Al Sultan.
The spring provides a steady water flow throughout the year. Until seven years ago, farmers got water through open, concrete canals running along their fields, making this resource vulnerable to pollution, seepage and evaporation in a place where every drop is precious. The Palestinian Water Authority’s survey had showed that water loss was as high as 30-35%.
In 2006, with generous funding from the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development and assistance from Jericho municipality, ANERA completed a six-year project to modernize the spring through a state-of-the-art irrigation system.
After ANERA’s upgrades, the Ein Al-Sultan spring delivers a reliable flow of water at a constant pressure to 900 families every day.
The Ein Al Sultan spring project resulted in a pumping facility located at the spring’s mouth plus 30 miles (50 kilometers) of piping, hydrants, valves, pumps, stand-by generators, and a sophisticated network of meters. This efficient pressurized system continues to deliver a reliable flow of water at a constant pressure to 900 families every day. The system saves 1.2 million cubic meters of water every year, partly through preventing water loss.
“We successfully introduced a first-of-its-kind irrigation system to this dry place,” says Mazen Dabbagh, ANERA’s project manager. “It has proved its reliability and accuracy throughout the years.”
Jericho Farmers Can Depend on a Steady Supply of Water
For farmers in Jericho, the new system has been a life-saver. Ahmad B’abes lives with his wife and three young children and has known no other profession but farming for all his 53 years. He does not own any land himself but he has always worked for others as a farmer and shareholder.
“Our life is closely tied to this land,” he explains with pride. “When the season’s good we earn good money, but when it’s not, money becomes an issue.” Ahmad says the new system has helped him financially because he can depend on a steady supply of water to grow his crops. “It’s something we can always count on.”
Before the new water system was installed, farmers like Ahmad Da’bes had to store excess water coming through the canals in man-made ponds to use when water pressure was weak or there was a shortage of water. But the ponds were often prone to pollution and evaporation. Farmers found it stressful and had to be very creative to keep their crops alive.
Today, Ahmad says he can focus on cultivating his land because he gets the water he needs and he knows it is not contaminated. “The Ein Al Sultan spring is a gem in sun-baked Jericho, and a true model for future irrigation systems around the West Bank and Gaza.”
ANERA did not stop with building the water system. We also established a successful water users’ association for farmers so they can share their concerns and coordinate efforts to protect their rights and common goals.