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Jordan River

The Jordan River originates from three main springs: Banyas in the Occupied Golan Heights, Dan in Israel, and Hasbani in Lebanon. The water of the Jordan River flows southward through Lake Hula towards Lake Tiberias. The lower part of the river flows downstream of Lake Tiberias and joins the Yarmouk and Zarqa rivers, which spring from Syria and Jordan respectively. The river continues to flow southwards until it spills into the Dead Sea at approximately 400 metres below sea level. The entire length of the Jordan River is 360 kilometres with a surface catchment area of about 18,300 square kilometres (Map 6).

The Jordan River is considered a shared water resource between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. Its waters have never been exploited based on the International Water Law because of Israel’s dominance over the shared water resources in the region as illustrated in Table 1. Until the 1950s, the Jordan River had an annual flow of 1,320 million cubic metres (MCM) discharging into the Dead Sea. Today only 50 MCM of highly saline water of a deteriorated quality ends up as surface water in the Dead Sea, due to Israel’s unilateral diversion of the Jordan River waters to the Negev and other diversion projects.

There is much concern that the level of the Dead Sea is dropping, due to the constant decrease of input from the Jordan River and increased use of other sources, such as natural springs, that supply water to the Dead Sea. The surface area of the Dead Sea has shrunk by about 30 percent in the past twenty years – a drop in water levels that translates to a rate of approximately 1 metre per year (Dead Sea Project, 2004).

The Jordan River / Photo Shutterstock
The Jordan River / Photo Shutterstock
Map 6: The Jordan River Basin / Source: ARIJ
Map 6: The Jordan River Basin / Source: ARIJ