B2 – Water in Iraq: Local Hotspots - National Challenges

Insufficient water and electricity supply contributed to stirring the violent protests that erupted in Basra in July 2018 and spread throughout the country in the following weeks and months. Even if the protests were motivated by a broader discontent with the government, it illustrated the importance of water in Iraq and its potential to undermine Iraq’s broader post-conflict development.

The situation in Basra gave an idea of how climate change increasingly impacts the country. The heatwave of the past summer hitting the larger region resulted in an increased water and electricity consumption that dramatically affected the downstream branches of the Euphrates and Tigris river basin – increasing the already strained water situation there and adding to the discontent among the population.

Moreover, Basra showed how various drivers, such as climate change, increasing water consumption or population growth, translate into tremendous local challenges. These local water-related problems might remarkably differ, as those in Kurdistan region look different than those in central Iraq or the southern marshes. Nonetheless, all of these challenges call for coherent national policies – domestically and with regard to Euphrates and Tigris also regionally, in particular in a rather fragile post-conflict setting.

The new Iraqi government will have to adequately address the country’s ongoing water crisis, such as the acute scarcity, dwindling resources and the sharply declining water quality. This requires the implementation of technical measures, as for instance the rehabilitation of infrastructure, was well as political action, as for example reforms in the water sector as well as in related sectors such as agriculture and food production.


Picture credit: Flickr/Adam Lynch