10 Ways USAID is addressing Water Scarcity in Iraq

USAID Water Team
Global Waters
Published in
5 min readMar 16, 2022

Abdi Ali, a farmer in Ninewa, proudly shows off a recently harvested pepper. USAID equipped Ali’s farm with a solar panel to pump water from his well, which helped him better irrigate his crops. Photo Credit: ICRI Ta’afi for USAID.

In Iraq, rising temperatures, reduced rainfall, and dropping water levels are all increasing the risk of drought and desertification. Growing water scarcity across the country threatens the health and livelihoods of at least seven million Iraqis. As water resources dry up, so too do the chances of long-term stability and prosperity.

Despite this harsh reality, hope remains where there is action. From rehabilitating wells and water treatment facilities to upgrading water networks to improve efficiency and increase water loss, here are ten ways USAID is helping to address water scarcity across Iraq.

  1. Upgrading Water Treatment Plants in 11 Provinces. USAID improved operations and maintenance of 70 water treatment plants across the provinces of Anbar, Babil, Baghdad, Basra, Ninewa, Wasit, Najaf, Diyala, Muthanna, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah, helping over 8 million Iraqis gain improved access to clean water.

A technician from the Ifras Water Center in Erbil adjusts the water intake settings according to the new operations and maintenance protocol introduced by USAID’s IGPA/Takamul project. IGPA supports water directorates across Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region better respond to citizens’ needs for potable water by improving water systems workflow and operations. Photo Credit: Maria Lourdes Luces, IGPA/Takamul Project for USAID.

2. Bringing Clean Water to Basrah. In 2018, after decades of overuse, pollution, and reduced rainfall from climate change, Basrah’s main water source became severely contaminated, sending 118,000 residents to the hospital due to water poisoning. In response to the water crisis, USAID rehabilitated nine of Basrah’s major water treatment plants to ensure they meet both local and international standards. The renovated treatment plants are bringing safe, clean water to more than 625,000 residents.

3. Modernizing Water Management. USAID is providing the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources with a state-of-the-art water management system to help the Ministry make strategic decisions on water conservation and counter the impacts of climate change, such as drought and flooding. As a symbol of its steadfast partnership, USAID just signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Iraq to promote its ongoing commitment to ensuring more sustainable water management.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew H. Tueller signs a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and the Government of Iraq at the International Water Conference in Baghdad in early March 2022. The Memorandum of Understanding reinforces the ongoing partnership between USAID and the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources. Photo Credit: IGPA/Takamul for USAID.

4. Rehabilitating Critical Water Infrastructure in West Mosul. When the Old West Water Project’s eight water pumps started failing, over half of West Mosul residents struggled to access enough water for their daily needs. USAID provided eight new water pumps and repaired the pump station building, which increased the Project’s pumping capacity, helping more water reach the 30 neighborhoods connected to the network.

A snapshot from a recent USAID-supported outreach activity in Mosul to raise awareness on the importance of water conservation. Photo Credit: ICRI Ta’afi for USAID.

5. Ensuring Safe, Potable Water in West Anbar. Western Anbar is one of the driest regions in Iraq. By rehabilitating water treatment plants and local distribution networks, USAID helped provide over one million Anbar residents with reliable access to safe, clean water.

6. Increasing Water Access in Soran. Soran is a city located in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region of Iraq and is home to about 125,000 residents. USAID and Coca-Cola, through the Water and Development Alliance (WADA), partnered with the Soran Water Directorate to improve water management practices, resulting in approximately 100 million liters of water saved annually and improving water access to 35,000 residents.

The team in Soran installs new water pipes across the city as part of the USAID-supported Water and Development Alliance, in partnership with Coca-Cola and the Soran Water Directorate. Photo Credit: WADA for USAID.

7. Saving Water in Five Governorates. USAID support to water directorates in Anbar, Babil, Baghdad, Basrah, and Ninewa have helped detect, document, and repair water losses more effectively and efficiently, resulting in up to 30 percent water savings.

8. Empowering Government Entities. The ISIS occupation left the water supply networks in Ninewa and Western Anbar seriously damaged and unable to meet residents’ needs. As a result households were forced to rely on expensive, unreliable, and low-quality water deliveries. USAID worked with the water directorates and equipped them with new water pumps, which increased the water supply to over 680,000 people across 46 residential areas.

USAID equipped the Ninewa Water Directorate with 8 low-flow water pumps, which increased the Directorate’s capacity in pumping water to residential areas. The head of the directorate confirmed, “After USAID support, the water station supply of water had increased from 5,000 m3/h to 9,000 m3/h”. Photo Credit: ICRI Ta’afi for USAID.

9. Boosting Awareness for Sustainable Consumption. Many Iraqis are not aware of how their personal water use can impact overall water scarcity. USAID launched a national online campaign with a series of educational videos to raise awareness of Iraq’s ongoing water crisis and promote more responsible water consumption. Since the start of the campaign, the videos have been viewed by over one million Iraqis. (See example below)

Video credit: USAID/ OTI

10. Pumping Up Irrigation to Farmers. Between climate change reducing rainfall and wells damaged by ISIS, farmers returning home to Ninewa and Western Anbar struggled to restart their activities. USAID fully operationalized 87 irrigation wells, which helped over 350 farming families start back up their farms and earn incomes for their families.

By Clara McLinden, Senior Development Outreach and Communications Specialist for USAID in Iraq.



USAID Water Team
Global Waters

USAID and its partners improve access to clean water and safe sanitation to create a healthier and more #WaterSecureWorld. For more, visit Globalwaters.org.