Restoring an Ancient System
The systematic collection and storage of water was key to permanent living at Umm el-Jimal. While about 300 mm, or about 12 inches, of rain falls annually on the slopes of the Jebel Druze to the north, historically Umm el-Jimal received only about 100-150 mm every year. Consequently, Umm el-Jimal’s residents built an ingenious system of channels and over eighteen large reservoirs to gather and keep water year-round for people and animals alike.
PARTNERS AND RATIONALE
Today local residents, the Umm el-Jimal Project, the community-owned sustainable development cooperative Al Jawhara, Open Hand Studios, the Municipality of Umm el-Jimal, and other partners are collaborating to restore the ancient water system for modern use.
There are two rationales for the project. First, the brief, concentrated annual spring rains often flood the site, which poses a long-term threat to the ruins’ conservation. Restoring the ancient water system will help preserve the site by properly channeling and distributing these flows. Second, Jordan is one of the top ten water-poor countries on Earth. Restoring the water system will provide a sustainable, secure, and local source of water for modern Umm el-Jimal’s thousands of residents, their flocks, as well as local gardens and farms.
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
Building from work by USAID conducted about 1960 to reconstruct the ancient Roman reservoir on the east side of the site, the project is now underway. In 2010, proof of concept work by local residents outside the site’s boundary first reopened the NE water channel flowing into the Roman reservoir, which now fills annually. Initial stages of the work are scheduled for 2016, with conservation and restoration targeted for completion by 2019 and a permanent community delivery system as well as appropriate monitoring and evaluation set up concurrently.