The Iraqi-Kurdistan autonomous region is plagued with many serious infrastructural problems. Among them, the Kurdish Regional Government has stressed that the region’s water resources are dangerously deficient in legal guidelines for its conservation and security. A water conservation proposal was introduced by Kurdish parliament’s committee for agriculture and water resources in 2017, but is still being discussed in an effort to pass a relevant law. Committee member Abdulrahman Ali Reza stated,

Unfortunately, we neither managed to provide necessary drinking water for the people of Kurdistan, nor could we turn the agricultural lands from arid to arable. Thus, the biggest problem facing the Kurdistan Region at the moment is not lack of water or a crisis, but lack of a law to conserve and protect water.”

With the passing World Water Day, March 22nd, the topic of conservation is all the more relevant. It has been predicted by many experts in the field that the next large scale war will be over water as a vital resource. Control of these reservoirs would be more important than oil, especially in the Middle East where many of the countries are landlocked and have limited access to potable water sources.

While Kurdistan possesses many rivers within its borders, the majority of them are downstream from Turkey and Iran. Its largest reserves are Darbandikhan and Dukan; both are relied upon heavily for fresh water in the region while their associated dams provide a large contribution to Kurdistan’s electrical infrastructure. Kurdistan has been confronted by the possibility of drastic water shortages because of drought as well as disputes with neighboring countries.

Previously, Iran has blocked the flow of water into Kurdistan during times of strife. In 2017, Iran blocked the Zei Bchuk and Little Zab Rivers that flow into the city of Qaladze for a whole month — during this time, the Dukan dam water level fell drastically. They routinely block the water flow from the Alwand River near the city of Khanaqin. The Alwand Dam contains nearly 37 million cubic meters of water at any given time. Because of these continued restrictions from Iran, the Kurdish Regional Government has routinely threatened to cut off Iraq‘s water supply that is derived from the Kurdistan region if Iran did not cease their activities.

The KRG’s general manager for water containment and dams, Akran Ahmed, informed local media that the Ministry had been working on a water conservation and security plan for Kurdistan for the past 6 years. Unfortunately, the war with the Islamic State and current economic crises in Kurdistan has forced the majority of the regions’ water related projects to be overlooked. Since 2012, Kurdistan has built 14 dams within the region and has halted production of another 20. KRG officials have clarified that 250 locations have been chosen for future projects such as dams and reservoirs. Kurdistan’s agricultural committee within parliament confirmed this by saying, “We need at least 300 to 350 dams in Kurdistan.” In total, Kurdistan currently possesses 30 billion cubic meters of water resources available for extraction, but 5 billion cubic meters remains underground untapped.


(Photo courtesy of the author)