2009-04-20 15:16:00
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

ERBIL: Water from a Rock: Drought and Dohuk

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DE RUEHGB #1071/01 1101516
R 201516Z APR 09


E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ERBIL: Water from a Rock: Drought and Dohuk

This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team Message.



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ERBIL: Water from a Rock: Drought and Dohuk

This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team Message.

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Kurdistan Regional Government has officially
declared 2009 to be another drought year. In an effort to
proactively mitigate the drought's effect, Dohuk Governor Tamar
Ramadan recently convened a conference to formulate a provincial
drought action plan. But human and industrial demand continues to
overburden the province's limited water resources. Despite
proactive planning and aggressive resource management, more
investment is needed to increase residents' access to potable. END

Snapshot of Water in Dohuk Province
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2. (U) Dohuk's nearly 1 million residents, including a sizeable
portion of the grain farmers of northern Iraq, depend on a
combination of wells and reservoirs located throughout the province.
Those sources are dependent upon rain-fed ground water, springs and
the two major rivers that run along its western and eastern borders.
The western half of the province depends primarily on water from
Chambarakat (Mosul) Dam in Ninewah Province and the smaller Dohuk
Dam in Dohuk City. (Note: The KRG recently began the second phase
of a project that will link the western half of the province
directly to the Tigris River, alleviating pressure on Chambarakat.)
The eastern half of the province relies on town/village wells, as
well as unfiltered water piped from the Zab River and a collection
of minor springs, but those water sources have no major reservoirs.
The KRG has plans to build modern reservoirs in the eastern area,
but to date, has been unable to secure the funding required (an
estimated USD 90 million) and is not optimistic that it will be able
to this year. Due to the absence of reservoirs, most residents of
the eastern Dohuk receive water for no more than three hours a day.

Dohuk Governor Gets Serious About Water
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4. (U) Despite the rain that has fallen across the Kurdistan Region
(KR) for the past month, the Kurdistan Regional Government has
officially declared 2009 to be another drought year. In order to
mitigate the drought's effect on the population, Dohuk Governor

Tamar Ramadan recently convened a conference of all provincial
government officials and all University of Dohuk faculties
associated with water resources. That conference resulted in a
12-point action plan. Recommendations included beginning the
process of water purification, having the KRG dig artesian wells
throughout the province, building small and big dams throughout the
province, and working closely with academia to "develop the DG of
Water Resources plans for drinking water for human and animal
consumption." The conference attendees recommended the creation of
drought-relief action committees in all three provinces of the KR
and a central committee in Erbil. Finally, the governor requested
KRG permission for an emergency drought relief budget of USD
14,954,044, based on the needs of the province as determined by the
conference attendees.

5. (U) Governor Ramadan convened a similar conference last year, to
which many provincial officials attribute the province's laudable
preparedness for the drought of 2008. The five Directors General of
water resources say that population migration from the rural to the
urban areas of Dohuk was greatly reduced because the province had a
comprehensive plan to regularly truck water to the rural areas, and
to dig artesian wells in strategic locations. The rate of
water-borne illnesses in Dohuk was significantly lower than years
before because the DGs of Water, Health and Sanitation had a plan to
Qbefore because the DGs of Water, Health and Sanitation had a plan to
regularly test water sources throughout the province and bar access
to those sources deemed contaminated. (Note: The Dohuk DG of Health
recorded six reported cases of cholera in 2008.)

Hoping for Rain, Planning for Sun
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6. (U) Despite having an aggressive drought management plan, the
reality is the demand on Dohuk's limited resources has long
outstripped what appears to be a dwindling supply. According to the
Dohuk DG of Agriculture, Dohuk DG of Water, and the Dohuk
Development and Modification Center (DMC),average rainfall and
snowfall in the province has steadily decreased over the past
decade. He says that, although the western half of the province has
benefited from the flooding of the Tigris River, the level of water
in Dohuk Dam is still too low to carry the province through the
summer without emergency drought intervention. Furthermore, the
ground water on which the whole province depends, and the province's
only backup for when drought sets in, is rapidly depleting. "Do not
expect these few drops of rain to replenish our reserves. We will
need another 3-4 years of above average rainfall to repair the
damage caused by last year's drought," said DMC Director Engineer
Mustafa Abdulkhaliq. The artesian wells that the government drills
in order to fill water trucks tap precious reserves of groundwater.
Once the water table decreases to a certain level, the water's
sulfur and nitrogen content become high enough to make the water
dangerous for human consumption. Due to this topographic feature of

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Dohuk, DG of Water Jalal Jameel predicts that he will be forced to
close seven artesian wells due to the nitrogen level. Overall,
Dohuk's water resource officials predict that the province will lose
an estimated 35-45% of its local water resources in 2009.

7. (U) In addition to affecting quality of life and health for
humans, water scarcity has an effect on water-dependent issues such
electricity provision and agricultural development. Dohuk has four
pending hydroelectricity projects, each of which will depend on
average rainfall in order to function. (Note: Dohuk is not
connected to the Erbil power line. The province relies on
electricity imported from Turkish company KARTET. The amount of
electricity provided by KARTET is insufficient for the demand that
exists and is both unreliable and, at six times the cost of local
electricity, very expensive. Provincial officials are hopeful that
these hydroelectricity projects, once implemented, will alleviate
demand in the remote parts of the province that currently receive
little to no power.) Furthermore, the KRG Ministry of Agriculture
has 93 agricultural projects scheduled for implementation in Dohuk
in 2009. Without sufficient rainfall and ground water levels, those
projects may not be implemented and a critical part of the KRG's
plan for economic development, bolstering and upgrading the
agricultural sector, will be delayed for another year. While the
Governor's drought action plan requested KRG funding to safeguard
crops and livestock during 2009, those funds will most likely
protect existing agricultural entities and rather than supply new
ones. In 2008, drought conditions were so austere that farmers in
the KR were forced to sell their cattle or watch them die from
dehydration. A province that, for decades, had such an abundance of
grass for grazing that it welcomed migrating shepherds from outside
of the KR during the summer months, Dohuk was forced to turn those
farmers away because the drought decimated any surplus that would
have existed.