Clean drinking water is an increasingly scarce resource for millions of people in Iraq, according to a new report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.The Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, which supply most of Iraq’s drinking water, are slowly dwindling and in some areas can no longer be used as a reliable source.
Across the country, the shrinking of the rivers is having serious consequences on the functioning of water treatment plants. In underground aquifers, the salt content of the water is increasing. This water is often unfit for human consumption or even for agricultural use.
In many places, the strain is further compounded by a lack of qualified engineers and staff able to maintain and repair water and sanitation facilities.
Many farming communities were hard hit by the drought that struck northern Iraq in 2008. Average rainfall over the past 10 years has been far lower than in previous decades.
In the north, water supply systems fed by springs and shallows aquifers have been depleted and often have less water available to meet demand.
Although rainfall has been better in many places during 2009 and 2010, low water levels continue to affect agriculture production, meaning Iraq needs to import more rice and wheat.
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