U.S. Water News Online
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Many Iraqi cities do not have adequate
water or sewage treatment plants. And even where there are treatment
systems, many have fallen into disrepair from years of neglect. At
the same time, water and sewerage systems, with their intricate
network of pumps, are constantly strained by regular power cuts.
Repairs and new treatment plants will be paid for out of an $18.4
billion aid bill passed by the US Congress in November 2003, the
Development Fund for Iraq, which has an estimated $1 billion left
over from the formerly UN-administered Oil-for-Food programme, and
money from international donors administered through the World Bank.
From 1990 to 1996, the annual budget for the maintenance of water
and sewage treatment plants in Iraq fell from $100 million to just $8
million, making it difficult to repair and maintain the water supply
systems, according to the UN.
By 1995, access to potable water in urban areas had fallen from
95% in 1990 to 92%, and in rural areas from 75% to 44 %. By 1997,
water treatment plants were working at only 40% of their nominal
capacities. The existing sewage treatment plants were not fully
operational and untreated raw sewage was being disposed of into
rivers &endash; the direct source of drinking water for many &endash;
with consequent increases in the incidence of water-borne diseases.
The UN children's agency (UNICEF) continues to truck approximately
7,200 cubic metres (cu.m.) of clean water into Iraq each day, serving
a total of about 350,000 people, and imports supplies of chlorine gas
and tablets. Community water stations have been set up at hospitals
and health stations across the country, and teams have made emergency
repairs to water pumping stations, but UNICEF says there is a limit
to what can be done as looting continues on a daily basis.
Before the war, Iraq pumped 3 million cu.m. of water per day from
140 water treatment facilities. Today, facilities operate at about
65% of that capacity, mainly because of electricity shortages and the
looting of water plant generators used to pump water and sewage.
UNICEF is currently trucking approximately 6,000 cu.m. a day to
the Iraqi capital and 200 cu.m. a day to Fallujah, 50 km west of
Baghdad, to help supply the population's need for potable water.
Baghdad's three sewage treatment plants are inoperable, allowing
domestic and human waste from an estimated 3.8 million people to flow
into the Tigris River. The plants represent three-quarters of the
country's sewage treatment capacity. They are due to be repaired by
October by the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID). But security problems have stopped work at one plant for
Baghdad's Sharkh Dijlah water plant is being repaired to pump 45%
more water in the future. The plant is expected to add 225,000 cu.m.
a day to the water supply by July 2004.
In some cities in the south, wastewater flows in open trenches.
Most piped water flows through the system untreated. Bacteria-related
illnesses from untreated water are especially common in summer. USAID
distributes an estimated 700,000 litres of clean water each day to
people in the cities of Basra and Muthanna.
In addition, UNICEF currently supports deliveries of 4,000 cu.m. a
day of tanked water to Basra.
USAID recently finished work on the 240-km Sweet Water Canal in
southern Iraq at a cost of almost $38 million. Bechtel, a private
contractor, fixed two pumping stations and 14 water treatment
stations, and dredged and cleaned the canal and adjacent reservoir.
USAID workers are also repairing 15 water treatment facilities and
portions of the Sweet Water Canal to Basra, which provides drinking
water to the estimated 1.7 million residents. Repairs to sewage
treatment plants in six major cities in the south will be completed
by December. In total, water and sanitation projects in the south are
expected to benefit more than 14.5 million residents.
Because the northern governorates operated autonomously for the
last several years, water and sewerage problems are not as dire as
they are in other parts of the country. Workers are focusing on
building potable water sources for villages with fewer than 1,000
people. USAID has repaired two water plants and one sewage plant, and
is distributing an estimated 700,000 litres of water each day to
people in Kirkuk and Mosul.
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