Should we drink from Disi Water?

One of Jordan’s most ambitious strategic developmental projects has been actually achieved. After years of ups and downs on a bumpy financial and administrative road the Disi water conveyor project is functional now supplying Amman and the middle area with 100 MCM of water each year.

Disi pipe

In Jordan there is always a reason to feel alarmed, worried and skeptical about every project. Whether this is justified or not remains to be proven. For the Disi project there is a huge shadow of doubt that has emerged since 2009 when a scientific study published by Duke University reached a frightening conclusion that the water of the Disi aquifer contain very high levels of radioactivity that is detrimental to human health and may cause many health effects including the “C” disease. Although all fossil water aquifers in the world contain various levels of radioactivity the one in Disi, according to the study is highly dangerous in its content.

The study, wired throughout the world by Reuters caused panic in Jordan. The Ministry of Water and Irrigation did not help at that time by pointing accusation fingers at the fact that the main author of the study was an Israeli academic, who was assisted by a prominent Jordanian expert and other American researchers.

The study occupied the psyche of the people in Jordan and almost all media outlets. No one cared to question the methodology which used sampling from a few wells in an area that has not been used for either drinking or agricultural purposes in the last decade. Moreover, Disi water has been used for drinking purposes in Aqaba since 30 years. Currently, Aqaba has the second lowest rate of cancer incident among Jordanian governorates (40 cases per 100,000 population) according to the National Cancer Registry for 2010. Obviously, Disi water has not caused a Cancer epidemic in Aqaba.

According to information I received from 4 trusted sources (officials and researchers) during the past few days I can say the following.

The Disi water that currently reaches your home tank originates from a collection of 50 wells in the Disi Aquifer. Volumes of water are collected and then pumped to the mixing and treatment facilities in Dabouq and Abu Alanda. The average dose of total radioactivity in this water originating from Disi is 0.83 mSv for 1 year exposure. While at Dabouq the Disi water is mixed with freshwater from Zai at a ratio of 1:1 which makes the final dose of the water pumped to your home 0.45 mSv. This concentration is based on the assumption of drinking 2.0 L per day for the period of 70 years.

On the website of the Water Authority of Jordan there is a very useful document in Arabic describing the Disi water treatment process in relation to radioactivity.

According to the WHO, Background radiation exposures vary widely across the Earth, but the average is about 2.4mSv/year,with the highest local levels being up to 10 times higher without any detected increased health risks from population studies. According to figures from the Jordanian Nuclear Regulatory Commission the background of radiation exposure in Jordan is 1.8 which makes 0.5 mSv a small addition to background levels and still within global average.

In Australia, which is highly dependent of fossil groundwater for drinking purposes the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) recommend that that a guideline dose of 1 mSv per year should be applied for radioactivity in drinking water. This is even more than the dose in the Disi water reaching the consumers.

Should we drink from the Disi water?

For me, as a father and a consumer I trust the sources I have consulted and in a country that is the 4th poorest in water availability in the world will drink the Disi water. As for anyone rightly concerned about reducing any potential of developing nasty diseases I suggest quitting smoking, cleaning the water tanks on the roofs of your households and fixing any problems of radon exposure in the house. In the meantime, I would always request and ask the government for transparency and the continuous announcement of water quality for the public opinion.

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About bwardam

Mr Batir Wardam is a Jordanian environmentalist with professional experience in disciplines of natural resource management, environmental policies and communication. He has a 15 years working experience with national academic institutions, NGOs, the government of Jordan and international and regional environmental organizations including UNDP, UNEP and IUCN. Mr Wardam is currently working with UNDP as a project manager for the third national communication report on climate change in Jordan.
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13 Responses to Should we drink from Disi Water?

  1. Prof. Odeh Al-Jayyousi says:

    Thanks Batir for this fair and sound judgment. The notion of “environmental pessimists” characterize many people who work on this domain not only in Jordan but
    worldwide. The key policy question that need to be re-thought and considered is “shall we move people to water or water to people”. Water for development is a crucial element in IWRM. The good news is that we have positive results and mega projects are seeing light albeit all the challenges. This proves good management in the water sector.

    • Eng. Hayel Msherbash says:

      Prof. Odeh…

      It appears that you have NOT heard about the corruption in Disi Project…!!!???

      Regards,
      Hayel Msherbash
      0777002901

  2. Eng. Hayel Msherbash says:

    I am sorry, but, I don’t believe the official sources in Jordan…
    However, I have to drink Dissi water, do I have another option?????????????????????????????

    • um Rydan says:

      yes you have always another option, drink the bottle water, so do we

      • Eng. Hayel Msherbash says:

        Dear Um Rydan,
        Thanks…
        Actually, I use a 6-stage water filter…
        Regards,
        Eng, Hayel Msherbash
        Solar Energy Friends

  3. Abdel Rahman Sultan says:

    Dear Batir
    why do we need to invest in desalination and sell to Israel. Do we have the funds to do so. Or it will be a grant from the international community. Is that because our energy is less expensive here in Jordan compered to Israel. Or because we have less stringent environmental procedures concerning safety and dumping of brine.

    What Jordan will get in return from Israel. are we going to re-discuss the peace water treaty with them and re-divide the water resources at the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers.
    The Government of Jordan has to show what are the trades in this thinking before we waste more years and millions of dinars on ideas. We need the government to hold a master plan on a national and regional level to discuss the future of the kingdom and the region in the lights of future water projects.
    All best regards
    Abdel Rahman Sultan

  4. Eng. Hayel Msherbash says:

    Dear Abdel Rahman Sultan,
    Al-Ra’i daily newspaper published my paper, entitled:
    “…مشكلة المياة في الأردن: التحدي و الإستجابة…توصيات مستقبلية”
    Dated: Sept. 22 and 23, 1999
    Water Problem in Jordan: “The Challenge and The Response…Future Recommendations”
    Where I recommended 25-specific recommendations, some of which have already been implemented, the rest are still practically and economically applicable…
    Regards,
    Hayel Msherbash
    0777002901

  5. Hakam Taji says:

    A 6 stage water filter at your home will not filter radioactive particles.
    What about our fruits and vegetables, will they be safe to eat?
    Why don’t we install a plant to purify the Disi water from radioactive particles like the Saudies?.
    Saudi Arabia can finance this project?

    • Eng. Hayel Msherbash says:

      Dear Hakam,
      Thanks for your kind, sincere warning…
      Actually, I know that, but, as you know, I can’t purify water from Radioactive particles…
      Please, how do you know that Saudi Arabia would finance this project?
      Regards,
      Hayel Msherbash

  6. K. Gabriel says:

    Approved technology using HMO and ceramic flat membranes is in full-scale operation 42,000 m³/d (currently extension to up to 150,000 m³/d) in KSA since 2010 removing up to 86% of Radium…
    Read more on http://www.ceramic-flat-membrane.com
    [Applications > Groundwater Pre-Treatment | Case Studies > Groundwater Replacement of Polymer UF].
    This technology is easy to implement even in existing plants
    [Case Studies > Groundwater Retrofit of Sand Filter].

  7. Eng. Hayel Msherbash says:

    Dear Kay,
    Do you expect me to set up a plant of 42,000-m3/d or 150,000-m3/d to purify my water from radioactive particles?
    Hakam mentioned that Saudi Arabia can finance this project?
    But, I am not the Government of Jordan to ask KSA to finance this project…

    • K. Gabriel says:

      Dear Hayel,

      I just wanted to update you from technical side that simple technologies are available in large-scale and small-scale sizes.
      It seems that you are specifically looking for your own water (house connection)… Sure that this is may be the required solution step if there is no general decision from Authorities.

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