10 September 2020
  • Watersecurity
  • water
  • Resource scarcity
  • Conflict drivers

Building stability: Iraq’s interprovincial water disputes

The debate regarding Iraq’s water challenges continues amidst the rapid surge of COVID-19 infections and the unstable security situation. Besides the transboundary water challenges, Iraq is also facing internal conflicts related to water scarcity and pollution. According to Water Peace and Security (WPS), the rivers Tigris and Euphrates form the primary water resources of Iraq.

Different factors are contributing to Iraq’s water challenges: The construction of dams by Turkey and Iran, decrease in rainfall due to global warming, increased water usage, for example by the oil industry, the destruction of water infrastructure as a result of wars and conflicts since the 1980s and poor water management, all have contributed to worsening the quality and quantity of water. Since the 1980s, the rivers’ water supply decreased by 30% and by 2030 the amount is expected to drop by 50%.In its recent working paper, WPS refers to a growing interprovincial tension over the scarce water resources.

“Indeed, water-related challenges at the interprovincial level in Iraq have long been overshadowed by transboundary water disputes in the region. This may be because interprovincial water challenges are highly complex, less visible, and more technical in nature.”

The southern provinces are more  susceptible to interprovincial disputes, as they host larger farming communities and, of course, are located downstream. Basra, for instance, has consistently raised concerns over its water quotes, that are being depleted by the provinces upstream.

WPS has assessed these interprovincial tensions and identified four factors that affect water availability, and, in turn, drive conflicts in Iraq. Geographical, legal, economic, and socio-political factors are highly connected and context-dependent, but and they accelerate tensions over water -related security risks. Read more about these factors and WPS’s three building blocks towards stability HERE.

Photocredit: Vicuna R/ Flickr