‘Water war’ threatens Syria lifeline

Al Jazeera reports: When severe water cuts began to hit Aleppo province in early May, residents started referring to a “water war” being waged at the expense of civilians. Images of beleaguered women and children drinking from open channels and carrying jerry cans of untreated groundwater only confirmed that the suffering across northern Syria had taken a turn for the worse.

However, lost in the daily reports was a far more pernicious crisis coming to a head: a record six-metre drop in Lake Assad, the reservoir of Syria’s largest hydroelectric dam and the main source of water for drinking and irrigation to about five million people.

Under the watch of the Islamic State group – formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – levels in Lake Assad have dropped so low that pumps used to funnel water east and west are either entirely out of commission or functioning at significantly reduced levels. The shortages compel residents in Aleppo and Al Raqqa to draw water from unreliable sources, which can pose serious health risks.

The primary reason behind the drop appears to be a dramatic spike in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam in al-Tabqa, which has been forced to work at alarmingly high rates.

“[Lake Assad] is pumping out more than it is receiving. This is because the electricity generators are working 24 hours a day, more than they should be,” Waleed Zayat, a mechanical engineer working for the Syrian opposition’s interim government’s Ministry of Water Resources and Agriculture in Aleppo, told Al Jazeera. [Continue reading…]

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