Daraa water tankers: Expensive and unhealthy but an alternative to drought
Enab Baladi – Halim Muhammad
With the onset of summer and the rise in temperatures, southern Daraa governorate witnessed a decline in drinking water due to the drying up of springs, surface lakes, and some drinking water wells in various regions.
The local residents depend on three sources of water, the safest of which is, from a health point of view, spring water, which is subject to continuous government health checks, and continuous automatic sterilization with chlorine, under the supervision of specialized employees.
After most of the springs dried up, the residents resorted to the two remaining options, which are either digging private wells or filling the water through mobile tankers.
Last June, the springs of al-Abd in the village of al-Ajami in the western countryside of Daraa dried up for the second time in a row.
At the beginning of July, the group of major and minor al-Soukhna springs, which cover the needs of about 25,000 people in Tal Shihab and Khirbet Qais, dried up. Also, the springs of Zayzun, west of Daraa, and the springs of al-Bajja, north of Nawa town.
According to what was stated by the director of the Public Corporation for Drinking Water and Sanitation in Daraa, Mamoun al-Masri, on July 18, the town of al-Taybeh in the eastern countryside of Daraa also witnessed the drying up of a group of government wells that used to supply the town with fresh drinking water, in addition to the drying up of a number of wells of the al-Qunya station, south of the city of al-Sanamayn.
Al-Masri attributed the causes of the drought to several factors, including the decline in the level of water resources due to the digging of random wells, the poor rainfall, and the lack of compensation for groundwater losses.
He pointed to the seriousness of the decline in the water level of al-Ash’ari springs in the western countryside of Daraa, which feeds Daraa city and the surrounding districts.
Ahmed Mohsen, director of water resources in Daraa, said that the lack of rain led to a noticeable decline in the abundance and level of underground springs, and this was reflected in the stock of dams, which did not exceed 30% of their maximum storage limit over the past years.
Mohsen added that the large extraction of water from groundwater springs, whether with the intention of securing drinking or agricultural water, affected the water stock, in addition to digging random wells, most of which draw large quantities of water for use in the alternative energy system, or through the installation of transformers exempt from rationing.
Shared wells, Unclean tankers
In light of the dryness of most of the springs, some residents resorted to digging wells in the vicinity of the houses, either individually or jointly among a number of the residents of the neighborhoods.
Hussein, 25, of Tal Shihab town, told Enab Baladi that after the decline in the level of al-Soukhna springs last year, he dug a well in the vicinity of his house, and connected the surrounding houses within the neighborhood with it, adding that he is currently in the process of installing solar panels to ensure its operation during daylight hours, as a result of the long rationing of electric current in the region.
The young man pointed out that the well’s water is calcareous and not suitable for drinking, so the residents depend on it for household uses, such as rinsing, washing, scouring, and watering livestock. In return, they buy drinking water from mobile tankers.
The water from the tankers is not subject to systematic sterilization processes, similar to the springs and government wells that are equipped with an automatic sterilization device linked to the operation of the pump, which may lead to health risks that threaten the lives of residents and help spread diseases.
Assad al-Zoubi, of al-Taybeh town, told Enab Baladi that bottling water from private wells carries a risk that may threaten the lives of residents because most of the wells’ water in al-Taybeh is sulfur, in addition to the lack of separation between tankers that work for agriculture and others that sell drinking water. Likewise, tanker water is not subject to chlorine sterilization.
3,000 SYP a barrel price
The price of a barrel of drinking water in Daraa differs from one seller to another, and the price of diesel controls the price, as the price of a liter of diesel has reached 9,000 SYP. The distance of the house from the water source also controls the price, as it rises the farther the distance is.
Mohammad Khair, 20, of Tal Shihab, buys five barrels of drinking water every three days, the price of one barrel with a capacity of 200 liters is about 3,500 SYP after the drinking water was cut off in the town since the beginning of this month.
Alaa, 33, of Bosra town in the eastern countryside of Daraa, told Enab Baladi that the consumption of drinking water varies according to the number of family members. She estimated her family’s consumption of a tank of 25 barrels every ten days at a price of 80,000 SYP.
For his part, Mohammad, 30, who sells drinking water using a mobile tanker, told Enab Baladi that he sells one 200-liter barrel for about 3,000 and fills his tanker with water from private wells.
Mohammad’s tanker holds about 30 barrels, indicating that during this period, he sells about three tankers per day.
Studies indicate that Syria is on the verge of severe conditions in the water sector as a result of drought and war.
Fanack website, which specializes in studying the water situation in the Middle East region, talks about expectations that five water basins in Syria will be depleted, which are Barada, al-Awaj, Orontes (Asi), al-Sahoub, Tigris, Khabour and Yarmouk.
In 2019, Fanack stated that statistics indicate that the average water shortage is 1.727 million cubic meters annually and will reach 6.2 billion cubic meters in 2050 due to increasing consumption and mismanagement of non-renewable resources, along with population and economic growth.
Low and fluctuating precipitation will exacerbate this situation, as groundwater levels will drop, some springs will dry up, and some rivers will drain less.
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