Iraq faces drinking water shortages due to drop in river levels

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By Dalya Ahmad

Azzaman, July 10, 2014

Major Iraqi cities are facing water shortages as rivers Tigris and Euphrates shrink away from their banks, according to the parliamentary commission on water and agriculture.

Water and agriculture commission in the Iraqi parliament has said that water levels in the two rivers have receded dangerously in the past few weeks.

Conditions were most serious in the Province of Basra where low water flow from the two rivers was too low to operate water purification projects properly.

Basra is fed by a canal upstream Shatt al-Arab, a river formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates at the town of Al-Qurna north of Basra.

The canal is the only way to feed Basra’s drinking water plants because Shatt al-Arab carries a high degree of salinity that is close to the level of salinity in sea water.

But the commission speaks of “acute water shortages” across the country with the current hot summer months being the worst so far.

Fuad Kadhem, a commission member said, the control by militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria of cities and dams upstream the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the northern and western parts of the country, has aggravate the shortages.

“There are areas and dams in the Province of Nineveh and the Province of Anbar which have been targeted by armed men,” he said.

Kadhem also blamed Turkey in whose mountains the Tigris and Euphrates originate.

“Turkey was not allowing the volume of water that is allocated to Iraq under international agreements from reaching the country,” he said.

The head of the water department in Basra Province said he has been forced not to operate water pumps anymore because they lack the capacity to go deeper and pick water from the plunging water levels.

He said his department needed more forceful pumps for its water purification plants.