A worldwide map of groundwater resources crossing national boundaries has just been published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This map details 273 shared aquifers – sources of ground water – across the globe. It is the culmination of eight years of research and development of an extensive ground water database by UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP). The map also indicates water quality of the aquifers, recharge of the aquifers, streams and rivers in the region of the aquifers, and population density near the aquifers.
Above Photo: Inside the Global Aquifer Map
The unveiling of this project is set to coincide with the United Nation’s review of a new draft Convention on Transboundary Aquifers on October, 27, 2008. This convention is an international treaty to assist in the management and protection of ground water resources across country boundaries. This project is very important because shared ground water resources could increase conflict across political boundaries in the future. The delineation of transboundary aquifers will assist countries in current and future water planning.
Less than half of Iraq’s population of 29 million people have access to clean, drinkable water. According to a recent report by Oxfam, the number of civilians in Iraq without water has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent during 2003 to 2007 (the continued US occupation).
Above Photo: Child cries as a woman fills pans of water from a public water hose on open ground in Najaf, Iraq, in 2006. Alla al-Marjani/Associated Press.
Recent History of Water in Iraq
Iraq had over 140 drinking water and treatment facilities in operation in the recent past. Air attacks in the 1991 Persian Gulf War destroyed many of these plants. At the same time, UN imposed sanctions that disallowed trade between Iraq and other countries. This made import of needed chemicals and supplies for upkeep of the water facilities difficult. By 2003, Iraq’s 140 major water treatment facilities were operating at 35 percent of their design capacity. In March 2003, the US government launched a direct-attack on Iraq. The following continued war rendered useless already deteriorating water infrastructure systems across the country. Years of political upheaval, sanctions against Iraq, consistent mortar attacks, and unstable-transitional governing bodies have made maintenance of the water treatment systems almost impossible. Unsafe water is also taking its toll. Iraq saw the worst outbreak of Cholera in recorded history in 2007.
Above Photo: A man in a village in southern Iraq demonstrates how Bechtel left his village without access to clean water. BanglaPraxis.
While some measures are being taken to ensure water availability in Iraq…
UNICEF provides water on tanker trucks and distributes home-hygiene kits to civilians. UNESCO has assessed water resources available in Iraq and evaluated possible management plans. USAID has refurbished 10 water treatment plants and installed 70 small water treatment systems in rural communities. The transitional Iraqi Government has been developing water policy. The Iraq Water Project (Veterans for Peace in conjunction with LIFE) has sent small, sterilized water units for hospitals and schools and has been working to rebuild six water treatment plants in Iraq.
…these actions are not yet enough.