Iraq is faced with quite the dilemma in regards to their water supply. The Iraqi war on water is going to be big; experts suggest that the water war may do what decades of war haven’t been able to do — destroy the country.
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are impressive. In ancient times, they fed life in the historic area of Mesopotamia, which literally translates into "the land between two rivers". Historically, Baghdad was surrounded by lush plains to the south, and that area has long been called the "cradle of civilization" because it is the place where so many of humanity’s greatest achievements and earliest empires were born. But the abundance that led to those achievements and empires has drastically changing.
The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are dammed up in Turkey and Syria, which is reducing the rivers’ flow. The water flow in the Euphrates River currently runs at about 200 cubic meters per second when it crosses into Iraq, which is less than half of the minimum requirement that the country needs to meet its basic needs. The Tigris River is also in dammed and Turkey is currently working to push ahead with a controversial Ilisu dam project, which will cause the Tigris River flow to pretty much stop altogether by the time it hits Iraq.
What used to be an area of rich, fertile plains is now turning into a desert. The flood plains on the sides of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are dry and in northern Iraq, ancient aquifers have been depleted to a point where they might not ever replenish. Wells throughout the region are running dry. The lack of water in the region is a huge environmental crisis and has many implications; it’s causing dust storms, some of which have traveled as far south as the United Arab Emirates, almost nine-hundred-miles away. This desertification is made worse by record low rainfall levels, poor environmental policies and the American war in Iraq. With the American war, Iraqis find themselves using all of their resources in combat and they do not have the extra resources to additionally address the water crisis. Part of the problem is global warming. Iraq used to see droughts about once every ten years, now they’re faced with droughts every two or three years.
Mohammed Amin Faris is a leading Iraqi water official. After unsuccessful talks with Syria and Turkey, Faris is seeking third-party involvement, but his search is turning out as dry as his land. The future of the water war in Iraq is unclear, though it doesn’t look good. EnviroCitizen.org encourages you to research whether or not there is anything you can do to help support efforts to remedy the water crisis in Iraq.