Iraq's water in the International Press

Iraq is in the midst of a water crisis and its worst drought in decades. At the current rate of decline, Iraq's water supply will not be enough to avert a widespread humanitarian crisis. The continuing water crisis has directly contributed to rising levels of food deprivation, displacement and poverty in Iraq. This alarming trend has propelled water issues to the top of the government's agenda.  The international press is taking note, bringing news of the situation to news readers around the world.  As the lead UN agency on hydrology and on the media, UNESCO offers this page as a resource for monitoring the water crisis in Iraq through the eyes of the press.  The list of articles will be updated regularly.  Submissions of articles can be sent to c.walther@unesco.org.  The list is not intended to be exhaustive and does not represent the views of the organization.

August 2010 - Evaluation Of Quality Of Drinking Water From Baghdad, Iraq

Evaluation of Quality of Drinking Water from Baghdad, Iraq

February 2010 - Crisis in Northern Iraq: The first climate change refugees (PDF, in French Only).

The French foreign affairs magazine, Diplomatie, showcases the traditional karez aqueduct systems of northern Iraq and the challenges their beneficiaries face when their karez dries up. Casey Walther, UNESCO's karez project manager, is interviewed on the decline of the karez and the migration trend.

23 September 2009 - Water-Short Iraq Faces New Peril: the Sea

With haphazard climate change impacts and transboundary withholdings of surface water from upstream Syria and Turkey, the country’s name “the land between the two rivers” is now becoming a misnomer. A once prominent wheat exporter is now the world’s largest importer of wheat. Recent political concordance with Turkey has led to ephemeral increases in the Euphrates’s flow to between 450 and 500 cubed meters per second until mid-October, after which agreements must be redrawn at the business table. The newest Iraqi water challenge springs from the effects of the decreased river inflow; high Iraqi evaporation rates coupled with diminishing freshwater flow have undermined the balance once held between freshwater and the seawater from the northern Gulf. An encroachment of brine waters may be the result.

15 September 2009 - Iraq seeks 30-year water plan to fight drought

Iraq is studying offers from three foreign companies on putting together a strategic 30-year plan for managing its water resources during a lingering and damaging drought.

3 September 2009  - Drought Withers Iraqi Farms, Food Supplies

A growing number of farmers - long the engine of Iraq's economy - are abandoning their fields in the face of one of the country's worst water crisis in decades. The government has banned rice farming in Southern Iraq, and is scrambling to alleviate effects of the drought by rationing water supplies and encouraging imports to reduce the reliance on domestically grown food. As Iraq and the region's water woes continue, some are predicting the possibility of "water wars," over the right to water in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.   

31 August 2009 - Iraq: Drought hits rice, wheat staples

Once an agricultural powerhouse in the region, Iraq's "once fertile agricultural land are becoming semi-desert," thanks to worsening drought and water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, according to this report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Barren lands reduced Iraq's rice cultivation by half and decimated more than 2 million tons of wheat harvest over the last 2 years. This has prompted government and UN officials to urge a new water sharing compromise between Turkey, Syria and Iraq that focuses on more efficient water usage and drought resiliency.


26 August 2009 - Water shortage threatens two million people in southern Iraq

Up to 2 million people in Southern Iraq may be without electricity and drinking water, as Iraq suffers from what some are calling the its worst drought "since the earliest days of Iraq's civilization." Plummeting water levels in the Euphrates River has already cut electricity in region by half, and it is predicted that a further 20cm drop in the river in the coming weeks will force the region's 2 remaining power-generating turbines to shut down. Increasing water scarcity has already forced over 300,000 marshland residents to abandon their homes, a trend that will likely grow to the millions as the latest drought continues to devastate Iraq.

30 July 2009 - Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say

Iraq has been hit hard by what some are calling "an environmental catastrophe," as decades of mismanagement, increased demand for water and the latest drought are turning the "region's most fertile area into a wasteland." Drying wells and river-beds have had wide-scale implications for Iraq's citizens, leaving many without access to safe water and turning a one time agricultural powerhouse into an import-dependent country. Daily dust-storms are the most visible indication that Iraq's dwindling water supply are being felt throughout the country, a phenomenon that is eroding the country's arable land by a rate of 5% a year.


27 July 2009 -
Fertile Crescent 'will disappear this century'

Increased demand from Iraq's upstream neighbors, Turkey and Syria, have reduced parts of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq to nothing more than a trickle, threatening a country already witnessing one of its worst droughts in decades. This has prompted Iraqi ministers to call for urgent talks with Turkey and Syria, who recently reduced the flow of the Euphrates to Iraq to below 250 cubic meters a second - or less than a quarter of the water needed to irrigate Iraq's increasingly barren land.

9 March 2009 - Iraq's Marshlands Face A Second Death By Drought

Once the plush cradle of civilization, Iraq's Mesopotamian Marshland is being ravaged by drought that threatens to transform it into a "dusty plain," as this NPR report reveals. After showing signs of revival from Saddam Hussein's brutal campaign against the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s - a campaign that destroyed more than 90% of the wetlands - the recent drought is again forcing thousands of people to move or face starvation.

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