Iraq’s water reserves fall 50 per cent after river diversions and dry spell

Harsh summer forecast but government says supplies for drinking and irrigation will be fine

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Iraq’s water reserves are down by half from a year ago because of poor rainfall and restricted flows in its two main rivers, the Ministry of Water Resources said on Thursday.

But the reserves will be enough to meet the demand for drinking water and for irrigating orchards and seasonal crops, the ministry’s adviser, Aoun Diab, said.

“Based on the data we have, Iraq is going to face a severe summer as the water reserves are still modest in spite all efforts made by the official parties,” Mr Diab told Iraqi media.

He blamed the low precipitation levels in the 2021 rainy season and in the spring, in addition to the trickle of river water flowing from Turkey and Iran.

“All that has left the water reserves at barely 50 per cent compared to last year,” he said.

About 90 per cent of the water feeding Iraq’s two main rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, originates in Turkey or Iran. Turkey is building several dams, while Iran has diverted tributaries that feed the Tigris.

For decades, Iraq has failed to convince both countries to reach agreements on how to ensure a fair share of water. Both argue that they, too, suffer from scarcity of water and that Iraq follows outdated irrigation methods.

A Turkish delegation is expected to visit Baghdad soon to discuss the water crisis, Mr Diab said.

Last year, the Water Resources Ministry said The Tigris and Euphrates could run dry by 2040 because of dwindling water levels and climate change.

Iraq is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, partly because of its water insecurity. Baghdad signed up to the Paris climate accord last year

Below-average rainfall, insufficient supply and mismanagement have left the war-torn country dry for years, wrecking expanses of arable land, affecting drinking water and increasing the frequency of dust storms.

For the past few weeks, Iraq has been hit by a string of dust storms. They have put hundreds in hospital and caused flights to be cancelled or delayed.

Amid the crippling water shortage, Iraq decided in October to halve its cultivation area for winter crops.

Updated: April 21, 2022, 5:13 PM
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