Solving the Water Crisis in Iraq
Iraq faces a deepening water crisis due to the consequences of war, upstream damming and decreased rainfall. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have dropped to precariously low levels, negatively affecting public health and agriculture productivity. The water crisis in Iraq requires international cooperation and innovative solutions.

The Problem

Iraq’s water supply has reached dangerous levels due to a myriad of reasons, perpetuating a cycle of constant crisis. The war in Iraq has resulted in the destruction of infrastructure necessary for potable water, such as dams and treatment plants.

Furthermore, dams in Syria and Turkey have decreased water levels in both major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. Iraq, historically reliant on these two rivers, has suffered greatly as a result of the upstream dams. Maintaining the crisis is the fact that average precipitation has decreased to among its lowest recorded levels.

The Consequences

The water crisis in Iraq produces several key consequences for the country. Among them are public health concerns, decreased agricultural productivity and political unrest.

If Iraqis have access to water, it is often unsafe for consumption. In Basra, 120,000 residents required hospital treatment in just one year due to contaminated water. Additionally, according to Human Rights Watch, the Iraqi government often fails to warn citizens about the dangers and presence of poor water quality.

Iraq’s agriculture sector places additional stress on the already limited water supply. In fact, the water crisis in Iraq prompted the government to suspend rice farming entirely. One in five Iraqis is employed in the farming industry. The water crisis has left many without an income and has forced others to find work elsewhere. This affects not only the farmers but the thousands of Iraqis who rely on the food they produce.

Many Iraqis are dissatisfied with the government due to the water crisis. They believe that Iraq’s government should have done more to protect water security such as by building dams of their own. In a country racked by instability and violence, protests over the government’s mishandling of water have left nine dead, hundreds injured and many more detained in prison according to the Human Rights Watch.

The Solution

No easy solution for the water crisis in Iraq exists. However, progress will require international cooperation. An international dialogue will need to address the Syrian and Turkish dams that starve Iraqi portions of the Tigris and Euphrates. Additionally, Iraq is in desperate need of aid to build its own water infrastructure.

In July 2019, Turkey published a detailed report regarding its plan to assist Iraq through the crisis. Turkey plans to take three critical steps in order to alleviate the strain placed on its southern neighbor. They will allow more water to flow into Iraq from the Tigris and the Euphrates. To help rebuild infrastructure, Turkey will provide financial aid. Finally, they promise to train Iraqi engineers and technical personnel on wastewater treatment and hydrology.

The United Nations, through UNESCO, hopes to provide training and financial aid to Iraq as well. The organization believes updated irrigation systems will deliver relief to Iraq’s struggling farmers. UNESCO plans to target aid in the two regions most affected by the water crisis, the northern and southern tips of Iraq.

The water crisis in Iraq stands in the way of further development. The country has, unfortunately, endured many hardships in recent history, but international cooperation remains its best hope for stability and prosperity.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Pixabay

“We are facing the worst drought Venezuela has had in almost 100 years,” said Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan President in 2010. The drought problems have not improved, and as the country faces issues from an incredibly dry season, officials on May 6 have implemented water rationing in the capital Caracas and nearby regions. This will leave some six million people without water three days a week.

Venezuela’s dry season has, moreover, extended longer than normal, adding to the drought the country has been facing. There are three water reservoirs surrounding the capital city, and one of them has already reached record lows, falling below minimum capacity. The rationing plan is set to last for four months, lasting until August or September.

Critics are blaming the current president Nicolás Maduro and the socialist government for the severity of the problem though, rather than the weather.

“Instead of waiting for storage ponds to dry, the government should have implemented a less burdensome, water-saving plan months ago,” said Carlos Ocariz, mayor of the capital’s Sucre district. He went on to say that no new reservoirs had been built during the last 15 years, possibly leading to the severity of the problem today.

Other reservoirs, though, still contain enough water for the moment. The Camatagua reservoir can continue providing water for 820 more days, according to the country’s environment minister, Miguel Rodríguez. But even when fully operating, the water supply in the capital is below international standards, only providing enough water for household use and not enough to meet commercial and industrial needs.

The drought has caused other problems for Venezuela. Hydropower provides up to two-thirds of the produced electricity, and with the lack of rainfall, power shortages are a constant worry for citizens in rural areas. According to critics, management and underinvestment are also to blame for the shortages.

Neighboring country Colombia is also suffering from the drought, prompting the country to reduce gas exports to Venezuela. This is to ensure that Colombia has enough fuel to run its own power plants, putting further pressure and reliance onto Venezuelan hydropower.

Furthermore, protests occurring in Venezuela have been occurring for more than two months, fueled by resource shortages, crime and inflation. With a lack of constant access to water and related services, the protests could continue to get worse. Already, the unrest has seen 41 deaths as well as over 700 injured.

As the El Nino weather continues in the region, the country faces a water shortage that could cause many problems across the board for Venezuela. The choice by the government to start rationing the water should help ensure a continued supply for the citizens for now, however. With any luck, and with officials hoping the rationing program will only be needed until August, Venezuelans won’t have to suffer long until the rainy season returns to abate the country’s water shortage.

– Matthew Erickson

Sources: ABC News, BN Americas, New York Times: Venezuela looks to Wind and Nuclear Power, New York Times: Electricity Emergency, Raw Story, Reuters
Photo: Construction Week Online