Saltwater intrustion could “completely eliminate the aquatic environment in this part of the river, if Iraq’s water supply from neighboring countries remain at the current rates.”
The study recommends diversifying the primary water sources in Basra Governorate through various measures, notably the construction of a planned desalination plant at Al-Faw district. Another proposal is the biological treatment of sewage water and its use in agricultural areas. (See a related article, “One Solution for a ‘Water-Stressed’ Future?)
Mason recommends maintenance or replacement of some water systems that are more than 50 years old, and improving their performance by varying the water flow.
“An independent review of the water governance in Basra Governorate is necessary in light of the illegal use of water by trespassing on water networks and illegal laying of pipes by officials,” he said. “That increases operation and maintenance costs.”
Local authorities have tried to solve the problem by rehabilitating the Bada’a Canal, dug 23 years ago. The study warns, however, that this will lead to a significant decrease in the flow of water due to evaporation.
The flow could also be affected by the growth of Ceratophyllum, a submerged, free-floating plant clogging the water course between the canal and the Al-Abbas Water Treatment Plant.
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Sulaiman noted that the fact that the canal is mostly open makes it vulnerable to dumping. He also cast doubt on the canal’s ability to provide the required amount of water, especially in the summer.
Sulaiman believes Iraq needs, first, major dam reservoir projects and, second, increased efficiency of water usage, both in cities and in irrigation projects.
For his part, Mason warns that unless steps are taken to solve the problem, large numbers of people will migrate from the south towards central and northern Iraq.