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Iraq Says Water Shortage Caused By Drought Is Over

Iraq has experienced several years of severe water shortages due to drought.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials have announced that the country will have sufficient water this year to meet its agricultural needs, ending several years of severe water shortages, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Water Resources Minister Muhannad al-Saadi told RFI on May 12 that a wave of heavy rain over the past few weeks, together with ample rainfall over the Tigris and Euphrates basins in southern Turkey, has enabled Iraq to fill its reservoirs.

Al-Saadi cited a rise of around 20 m in the Mosul dam reservoir in northern Iraq as example.

He said the increase in water supplies means the next growing season will not see a repeat of the problems faced by farmers, above all rice growers, in recent years, due to drought and other factors involving water supply issues in other countries.

Al-Saadi said that over 80 percent of Iraq's available water is used for agriculture, and considerable quantities are wasted due to outdated farming methods.

He said that to eliminate such huge losses the Water Resources Ministry is proposing a draft law making it obligatory for farmers to use modern, water-efficient techniques like drip and spray irrigation.

Economic analyst Bassim Jamil Antoine told RFI that Iraq's main problem is the misuse of its available water resources, rather than a shortage of water.

Antoine said that water-saving measures are required to introduce modern farming techniques, such as constructing covered irrigation canals and encasing existing canals to prevent seepage. He also advocated awareness campaigns in urban centers to promote rational water consumption.

In its "Irrigation Water Management Assessment And Priorities For Iraq," the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) quotes Iraqi professionals as saying that, as a result of more than two decades of isolation, the country is more than 20 years behind in modernizing its irrigation systems.