Iraqi Kurdistan Region reorganizes water distribution to reduce excessive water use

    14 Jun 2021

    The Kurdistan Region’s Water Directorate says it will not reduce water supplies but will reorganize distribution to decrease the overuse of water as the region suffers from a water crisis, the department said in May.

    According to international standards, “each person needs 200 to 250 liters of water, but what we’re supplying daily is between 350 to 400 liters for each person. Some people waste it, and some of them don’t know how to use it correctly,” department director Ari Ahmed told Rudaw radio.

    “We’re trying to reorganize how water is distributed, not reduce supply,” he said.

    Officials told Rudaw in April that the Kurdistan Region is facing a water crisis due to lack of rain, government funding, and the building of dams in Turkey and Iran.

    “Underground water levels have been steadily dropping for the past few years due to excessive water retrieval from wells,” Ahmed said.

    An allocation of 2.5 billion dinars for drinking water was discussed in a previous meeting, he said.

    Qubad Talabani, the Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan, announced on Wednesday that a high-level board was formed to deal with the water crisis. Adding that they are developing a plan to protect and provide easy access to clean water.

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    “We discussed holding diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey to unblock the flow of water in accordance with international standards, as well as prioritizing drinking water,”  Ahmed said.

    Ahmad noted that Halabja and Qaladze may have more problems with their water than anywhere else, and said they are working “seriously” to resolve the issue.

    “The whole area has indeed been affected by the lack of rain, but that is no reason to restrict all of the water.”

    A network of dams and canals are being constructed in Tehran, and Ankara has built a huge dam on the Tigris river at the cost of the ancient city of Hasankeyf that is now underwater.

    The winter and spring this year saw less snowfall and rainfall than average. Many neighboring countries have built dams to hold on to water from rivers shared by the two countries.

    Several other factors are blamed for the water shortage in the Kurdistan Region, such as poor water management and insufficient funding.

    Kurdistan Region in ‘water crisis’, officials warn

    The Kurdistan Region is in the midst of a water crisis due to a lack of rain, government funds, and the dams being built in neighbouring Iran, officials have told Rudaw.

    “There’s a water crisis. This year there’s a drought, it’s very clear. The government should have its own plan,” Akram Ahmed, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Dam Directorate told Rudaw’s Ranj Sangawi on Tuesday.

    “The government has five years to take action,” he added, saying it takes five years to build the largest dams needed in the Region.

    Ahmed previously warned of a potential water crisis after Iran inaugurated a number of important water projects in 2020.

    Hussein Hamakarim, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources told Rudaw’s Snwr Majid on Tuesday that this is the third drought the Kurdistan Region has faced in 20 years.

    A meeting will be held next week on the current drought and the data needed for a “comprehensive report” to be sent to the council of ministers on the issue.

    Iraq is the world’s fifth-most vulnerable nation to the effects of climate change, including water and food insecurity, according to the UN.

    Farmers in Garmiyan have abandoned their traditional farming areas amid a lack of rain, seeking greener pastures elsewhere.

    Faisal Nuri, director of Duhok dam said that water levels have decreased 8 meters this year, with the director of Darbandikhan dam Rahman Khani saying water flow has also decreased at the site.

    Kochar Jamal, director of Dukan dam says water levels have decreased by 14 meters, “mostly due to the lack of rain … another reason is the dams that Iran has built.”

    Tehran is building a network of dams and canals and Ankara has constructed a mega-dam on the Tigris River at the cost of the ancient city of Hasankeyf that is now under water. The governments in Erbil and Baghdad are not addressing the issue with the seriousness that the threat demands.

    Kurdish farmers have previously warned of “catastrophe” as Iran blocks the water supply into the Region.

    Turkey and Iran last month said they would cooperate with Iraq on water availability issues, despite being widely accused of hoarding the essential resource during Iraq’s first international water conference on March 13.

    The water crisis in the Kurdistan Region is also blamed on poor water management and a lack of funds.

    “After the [1991] uprising, we built small and medium-sized reservoirs. Now 17 are works in progress, but have unfortunately put on hold because we are waiting for funds,” Ahmed said on March 13, adding that four of them are dams.

    “There isn’t good water management in the Kurdistan Region, that’s one problem. Another problem is there are not enough budget funds in the Kurdistan Region,” Mohammed Amin Faris, deputy director of the Iraqi parliament’s agriculture and water resources committee told Sangawi.

    “We can’t just focus on building surface dams. We have to also focus on building new technology; we have to think about building sub-surface dams, building dams underground,” Jihan Mohammad, head of the Department of Water Resources at Salahuddin University said.

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