The semi autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan has plenty of water. For the time being at least. But experts warn that a water crisis is coming and that, despite plans to build dozens of dams, local authorities are…
Her face is covered in sweat and she turns to check that her daughter is alright. Halima Mustafa, 43, is carrying a large bucket of water on her head and she has another large bucket in her hand. Her 10- year-old daughter Coral is beside her, also carrying two buckets of water. Everything drips as the pair makes their way slowly home.






Prior to the 1991 Gulf war, the population of Baghdad enjoyed a relatively high level of water supply and sanitation services. Safe potable water was accessible to over 90% of the population of Baghdad and average water supply was 330 lcd 3 . After 1991, the situation substantially deteriorated, first due to international sanctions that hampered any efforts to import spare parts or chemicals which were critical for efficient operation and maintenance, then as a result of direct damage and looting that took place during and right after the 2003 war. At the time of appraisal, it was estimated that water supply services were at 30% of 1990 levels (73% of the population had no access), while the city’s three wastewater treatment plants (comprising 75% of the nation's wastewater treatment capacity) were operating at 50% of installed capacity, hampered by lack of maintenance, damage and looting, unreliable power supply, and inadequate water tariffs. Eight 

Prior to the 1991 Gulf war, the population of Iraq enjoyed a relatively high level of water supply and sanitation services. The sector operated efficiently, utilizing then-current technologies. Over 95% of the urban population and over 75% of the rural population had access to safe potable water. Water quality was generally good as about 218 water treatment plants and about 1200 compact water treatment units were operating throughout the country. Sanitation services covered about 75% of the urban communities (25% connected to sewerage systems and 50% with on-site septic tanks) and about 40% in rural areas. 
Since 1991 the water supply and sanitation sector has experienced a steady but devastating decline. Aging infrastructure, poorly maintained equipment, leaking water and sewer networks and low technical capacity and morale are some of the key problems of the sector. Diseases associated with poor sanitation, unsafe water and unhygienic practices had increased to alarming rates. It is estimated that water related diseases are responsible for about 25% of all deaths of children in Iraq. 





In 2016, UNICEF supported water, sanitation and hygiene for 1,206,816 displaced people (567,203 children) country-wide. Of the overall cluster response in 2016, UNICEF supported 53 percent of water supply, 84 per cent of sanitation, and 76 per cent of hygiene activities, based on cluster and UNICEF progress as of December. In 2016, 12 WASH Service Centres served displacement-affected areas of western and northern Iraq, and provided coordination and monitoring services for WASH actors and local authorities, and enhanced service delivery for WASH interventions. 





The combination of climate change, population growth, and limited environmental awareness effectively limits water resource management in Iraq. In addition, the destruction of vital infrastructure, as a consequence of conflict, and a lack of capital investments have resulted in the deprivation of many Iraqis from access to potable water and basic sanitation facilities. According to a 2012 UNICEF report, 91 percent of the population has access to potable water with significant differences among governorates and between urban and rural areas. For example, in rural areas, only 77 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water sources compared to 98 percent in urban areas. Furthermore, 6.2 percent of the population does not use an improved sanitation facility. Poor drinking water and sanitation has increased the risk of waterborne diseases especially among vulnerable groups such as children and women. 





The United States has made some progress in rebuilding Iraq’s water and sanitation sector. As of July 2005, State had allocated $2.6 billion; of this amount, agencies had obligated $1.8 billion and disbursed an estimated $450 million, mostly to support large-scale water and wastewater treatment projects. In addition, about $384 million in Iraqi and international funds had been obligated for the sector—about 21 percent of U.S. obligations. As of June 2005, 18 of 54 task orders for projects under five major U.S. contracts had been completed. For example, USAID’s contractor repaired six sewage treatment plants, two water treatment plants, and an urban water supply in southern Iraq. 



Iraq’s potable water sector faces myriad challenges. The presence of these challenges offers inherent opportunities for international companies to become increasingly active in Iraq’s water sector. Indeed, in conversations with a multitude of Iraqi government officials, one overarching theme of these conversations was a widespread awareness of the need for Iraq’s government to enlist international companies not only in constructing new water infrastructure, but also in consulting on preliminary studies, strategic planning, tendering processes and project oversight. 





Iraq is beset by many security challenges, including political dysfunction, poor governance, corruption, sectarianism and jihadism. While these immediate challenges undoubtedly pose considerable risk to the viability and stability of the state, rising food and water insecurity are less apparent, but no less worrying, security challenges. Pressure from population growth, a continued lack of sufficient infrastructure, riverine development projects in upper riparian states and climate change is likely to reduce the level of Iraqi food and water security by 2030.





Iraq has a large water and sanitation network, but it is in a critical state of disrepair. System failures are a daily fact of life. Efforts to fix the country’s municipal pipes and treatment plants – damaged by the impact of a decade of sanctions and war – have been seriously undermined by chronic under-investment, frequent power shortages, lack of qualified personnel, illegal water tapping and acts of sabotage. As a result, less than half of Iraq’s population can claim reliable access to potable water

Sanitation is also a persistent problem. Less than 10 per cent of urban households outside Baghdad are connected to sanitary sewage systems, and where they do exist, there are frequent failures. Operating on limited electricity, idle sewagepumping stations and treatment plants flood neighbourhood sites and discharge raw wastewater into Iraq’s rivers. The situation is creating widespread health and hygiene hazards for children. Iraq’s 2007 cholera outbreak, the worst in recent memory, underlines the dire state of water and sanitation across the country