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Prospects for agricultural water management

The development of irrigation as planned in the upstream countries, particularly the southeastern Anatolian (GAP) project in Turkey and the irrigation projects in the Syrian Arab Republic and in the Islamic Republic of Iran on tributaries of the Tigris and on the Dez and Karun, will reduce Iraqi irrigation potential unless an agreement is reached on the sharing of waters between the riparian countries. The regulation capacities on the Euphrates River are already greater than the entire average flow.

It has been pointed out in many quarters that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are complicated, both politically and hydrologically, and therefore there is need for cooperation among riparian countries to ensure water security and to prevent potential water-related disputes in the future. Iraq is at the furthest downstream point of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and a large part of the country’s water resources originate in Turkey; moreover, almost all of the flow of the Karkheh River that runs through the marshes in southern Iraq before joining the Tigris and Euphrates originates in Iranian territory.

It is thought that between 2020 and 2030 a shortage may arise in the Tigris and Euphrates owing to growing demand in the riparian countries and that an emergency situation will develop already around 2020 because the expected annual 4 km3 of water remaining as surplus in the two rivers will not be sufficient for the drainage of the Tigris and Euphrates Basin into the sea. Since water shortages are forecast to occur with the development of irrigation, solutions have to be found for an integrated basin-level planning of water resources development.

Undertaking improvement in water management in Iraq will require substantial investment, which must, at least initially, come from outside sources. Needs and opportunities for water-related investments must be identified and prioritized, costs estimated, economic feasibility determined, and financing and repayment plans prepared.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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