National Geographic : 1993 May
* JORDAN: An under- switch to a drip ground transfusion wa- irrigation system, ters beds of cucumbers watering plants at a private greenhouse through tubes in the in Baqaa, near Amman. ground; plastic sheets "We are saving discourage insects and about 50 percent of our prevent water-guzzling water," says owner weeds. Using the same Abdelraouf el-Khatib. method, he grows In 1978 he was among green peppers, toma the first in Jordan to toes, and beans. and palms. "Just like Las Vegas," he beams. Even Arab hydrologists point out that swim ming pools are mere thimblefuls in the overall water volume. But pools and green lawns are red flags to the Palestinians, whose cultural resent ment runs deep. Israel fears that if anew Palestin ian state comes into existence on the West Bank, it might pursue a policy of deep, heavy pump ing-not just to use the water but to deprive Israel. Politicians use the argument to resist Israeli withdrawal. Says one water expert, "Any body, in my opinion, who would give away their water resources is simply mad, sick in the head." On the road from Jericho to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, yellow mustard weeds wave in the ditches, and thistles spike the roadside. I can see Water-The Middle East's CriticalResource Jordan across the river, with its mud-brick vil lages and spring grass sneaking up the hillsides. At a Tiberias seaside restaurant I dine on St. Peter's fish from the Galilee, a primitive model of a fish, all scales and spines. The ample winter rains have swamped bushes along the shore. The cup of Galilee is full. "The water problem is not a problem," says a local hydrologist, who declined to be named. "It's psychological and emotional. A hundred million cubic meters overflowed from the Sea of Galilee this year. If we had peace between Israel and Jordan, we might have developed 30,000 acres of land. Instead, the water goes into the Dead Sea." Next day I visit the Jordan Valley Water Asso ciation, a private agency organized by area kib butzim. Computers run the irrigation system through cables and radio. "The computer gets information from the fields, decides what pump to run and what valves to close or open," says engineer Gidi Sela. "Want to change levels? Just push a few buttons, and the valves of a holding tank five miles away open to admit water." On one kibbutz, manager Zvi Rub tells me that 7,000 cubic meters of water per quarter acre were used for bananas each year when they were flood irrigated. "When we started to drip-irrigate, we were down to 2,000 cubic meters," he says.