Water is a Key Issue in Iraqi Election, U.S. General Odierno Says

With sectarian violence on the decline, Iraqi citizens expect service improvements to take shape in the coming elections.

Iraqi MosqueOpinion polls show that basic services such as water and electricity are top issues for Iraqis in the March 7 parliamentary elections, the United States’ commanding general in Iraq said last week.

“There’s many polls being conducted in Iraq, and all the polls are very clear to them what’s important–number one is the economy, is jobs. Number two, although a bit different, is basic services, electricity, water. Number three becomes something like a better Iraq for my children,” said Gen. Ray Odierno, speaking at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, DC.

Water supply problems because of war, under-investment, poor management and drought are evident throughout Iraq. In Baghdad, where nearly 15 percent of its 8 million residents do not have access to potable water, officials are trying to gain control over the distribution system.

“There is no management of water distribution and many of the distribution networks were constructed without planning,” said Haider Mohammed, the city’s chief water engineer, DVIDS Media reports. “The city of Baghdad also lacks adequate reservoirs, which results in the pumping of water from the production plant directly into the distribution system.”

The Baghdad Water Authority loses money and half of its water supplies from leaky pipes and illegal connections to the system.

Approximately $1 billion has been invested invested in expanding the city’s supply network, which is scheduled to be completed in 2012, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The project includes 16 water storage facilities and will supply Baghdad’s needs through 2030, according to RFE/RL.

Meanwhile, the southern province of Basra recently opened eight desalination plants to help cope with supply shortages, Middle East North Africa Financial Network reports.

Last fall nearly two million people in Basra lacked drinking water because of persistent drought and low river levels that caused sea water to spoil aquifers. Iran began shipping water by tanker to the province to alleviate the crisis.

Source: Institute for the Study of War, DVIDS Media, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Middle East North Africa Financial Network

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