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IX. Improve Water Resources Management

Strategy to provide uninterrupted water supplies; Strategy to improve water resources; Build ministry capacity; Advance Water Resources Policy

Saddam’s Legacy

The Saddam regime’s misuse and mismanagement of Iraq’s water resources left large sections of the country with polluted waters, saline-saturated croplands and little or no access to water resources. Although Iraq has the oldest system of irrigation in the world, many of Iraq’s once-fertile agricultural lands lie in waste. Population centers in Kurdistan and the marsh areas of the south have experienced mass relocations. Iraqi farmers, nomads, villagers and other citizens could not take full advantage of Iraq’s abundant water resources because of excessive water loss and vital missing components for irrigation and water supply systems.

As a whole, the former regime ignored the maintenance of the entire water control and water distribution system within Iraq. While raw water resources are plentiful in the north, the distribution to dryer areas and the treatment of these resources need attention.

The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), formerly the Ministry of Irrigation, is the bulk water supplier for the nation. The Ministry’s 9 large dams, 18 major barrages, and 275 pump stations comprise one of the most complex water distribution systems in the world. Over 90 percent of the nation’s water is used to irrigate 3.25 million hectares of land throughout Iraq. Mechanical equipment, such as pump stations and back up generators, are 20 to 30 years old and poorly maintained. Fewer than 60 percent of the system’s 1,200 individual pumps operate.

The freshwater marshes of Iraq once produced 65% of the nation’s supply of edible fish. Now, only 10% of the original 20,000 square kilometers of marsh remain, mostly in the 1,500 square kilometer Al Hawiyah marsh on the Iranian border. 90% of the water in Iraq is used for agriculture. Water for marsh restoration must come from the efficiencies gained in agricultural irrigation. The Ministry will take the lead in coordinating Marsh restoration efforts, including establishment of a center for Marsh Restoration to coordinate national and international efforts.

The Ministry of Water Resources manages water resource for the citizens of Iraq. As a steward of this vital resource, the Ministry strives to balance competing demands of irrigation, municipal and industrial water supply, hydropower, flood control, and environmental requirements, including marsh restoration. The Ministry also manages groundwater resources and supplies water to rural customers. The Ministry operates 25 major dams and barrages and 275 pump stations. The Ministry produces 17% of Iraq’s electricity, irrigates 3.25 million hectares of land, and has 12,000 employees.

CPA partners are undertaking activities to:

· Increase capacity and efficiency of water delivery and use through rehabilitation of old operating irrigation and drainage systems

· More than double the prewar amount of water available to the villages and herdsmen of western Iraq who suffer from water shortages.

· Provide immediate and future generating capacity

· Benefit the agricultural community by improving the efficiency and reliability of water use to increase crop production.

· Reduce high salinity return flows into the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

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