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Iraq is an arid country approximately the size of California, population about 25 million, with mostly low, desert terrain but with high mountains occupying the north quarter of the country. Two major rivers traverse the county, the Tigris and Euphrates. These rivers originate in Turkey, and flow through Syria on their way to Iraq. Their combined annual flow is about 80 billion cubic meters, or about 75 million acre feet – roughly about the same as the annual volume of rivers flowing from California's Central Valley. There is an extensive system of diversions and irrigation canals dating back centuries, with a dozen major reservoir projects, a few on the main river systems but most are on tributaries. There is extensive upstream reservoir and irrigation development in both Turkey and Syria. Coordination of system operation at the national level to meet irrigation and urban water demand and control floods is by the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR).

The capability of MoWR to manage the nation's water resources was significantly compromised by wars, sanctions, and the police-state in effect during the Saddam Hussein years, and by looting and destruction of critical records and facilities in the aftermath of the war. Key immediate needs to assist the MoWR to regain water management capability involve restoring basic data and decision-support analysis, and more generally, updating data, modeling, and management systems technology now badly lagging behind current international standards. The need is both for short-term analysis and decision making, the day-to-day management of the system, and for strategic near-future and longer-term decisions important for water allocations among competing users; and to provide the basis for addressing transboundary water issues. Among near future allocation issues requiring immediate attention is assisting with water management data compilation and studies seeking to provide replenishment of water needed to restore badly degraded marshes in southern Iraq - the ‘Restoring Eden’ project.

The restoration and capacity building work includes re-assembling information on hydrologic data, the gaging system, water management structures, and the status of Iraq's water resources management decision-support system; developing water control management system models; and training MoWR staff in these new technologies.

The work described herein is being performed by the US Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) in collaboration with the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources. The work is sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) working through its agent, Development Alternatives, Inc.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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