May 3, 2004


BAGHDAD, IRAQ – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) announce the completion of the rehabilitation of the Sweet Water Canal reservoir. The reservoir rehabilitation brings a marked improvement in the quality and quantity of potable water to the residents of Basrah.

Due to its high salinity, groundwater in Al Basrah is largely not drinkable. The Sweet Water Canal was constructed in 1996 to supply raw water to the area. After passing through a settling reservoir north of the Basrah airport, water from the canal is pumped to 23 plants around Basrah City, which treat it and distribute it into the city distribution system. The Canal had not been maintained since 1999 and was operating at less than half its capacity by the time the conflict began last year. As a result, more than 80 percent of treated water in Basrah was unfit to drink. The canal and its reservoirs were filled with up to two meters of sediment in places, with vegetation growing on the surface. A lack of dredging negated the effectiveness of the reservoir, and the high solids content of the water increased wear on the pumps.

At a cost of almost $38 million, the entire system is being rehabilitated by USAID infrastructure partner Bechtel, including the 240-kilometer canal, its two pump stations, a double sectioned reservoir, and 14 water treatment stations. Work includes dredging and cleaning the canal and reservoirs, refurbishing pump stations, providing backup power sources, repairing canal embankments, and replacing worn and broken parts. The reservoir rehabilitation work was completed and both sides of the reservoir were refilled in early April 2004.

The work brings a substantial improvement in the city of Basrah’s water supply, and by mid-summer 2004, the quality and volume of fully treated water will surpass the pre-war conditions. The Sweet Water Canal system will be restored to the full design capacity of 32,000 cubic meters per hour, providing fresh water to 1.75 million citizens of the Basrah region. The full project will be completed in mid-summer 2004.

USAID works to improve the efficiency and reliability of existing water treatment facilities, especially those in the south, where the quantity and quality of safe water are particularly low. In support of CPA’s goal to return essential services to Iraq, USAID’s $368 million in water and sanitation projects will benefit more than 14.5 million Iraqis. For more information on CPA’s and USAID's reconstruction efforts in Iraq including photos, please visit  and .

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