Iraq is facing a complex water crisis that is expected to persist. Intake from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – Iraq’s two main sources of water – is decreasing at an unprecedented rate, due to the construction of upstream dams and a prolonged drought.

The impact of climate change, rising temperatures and the diversion of river water is most acutely felt in Iraq’s southern governorates, like Missan. In Missan’s Al Hadam community, residents often struggle to get adequate water for use in their homes. 

Young water buffalo graze amidst what remains of the Al Battat Marshes, Missan Governorate. Anjam Rasool/2022.

“We are thinking of moving to the city centre because there is no water. We have to buy water,” said Iman, who was born and raised in Al Hadam. With six children, meeting the family’s water needs is neither easy nor inexpensive. 

A water pumping station originally installed in 2007 to increase the quantities of water reaching families in the area fell into disrepair after one year; it was eventually ransacked for mechanical parts.

Mohsin Faleh from Al Hadam community hopes for rain to nourish his farmland. Anjam Rasool/2022.

In 2022, IOM Iraq enlisted the company Rawabi al-Kadhumia to restore the water pump for use. The company did all the reconstruction work, including installing the electrical panel board to operate the pump, and clean tanks to store treated water. The pump draws water from a nearby sub-canal, where it is treated and distributed to families in two of Al Hadam’s villages for household use, including washing clothes, bathing and more.

While the installation of the pump provides some relief to the community, the scale of needs in the area cannot be overlooked. Displacement of families has already been observed in the community’s 13 villages, as water scarcity also takes its toll on agriculture and farming – the main sources of livelihood opportunities in Missan.

Mohsin shows us his soil, which is affected by growing salination caused by the reduced flow of the Tigris and Euphrates. Anjam Rasool/2022.

During 30-year-old Mohsin Faleh's childhood, rain fell quite predictably during the autumn season; speaking in early October 2022, on a day where temperatures were still in the 40-degree range, he couldn’t easily recall the last time it poured in his village. 

“I don't remember the last time it rained [properly]; I think two years ago,” he explained. “I didn't see rain in this place last winter.”
The young farmer has observed dramatic changes to the climate, the soil and the water resources surrounding his home over the past few years. The water level in the sub-canals that previously served Al Hadam is very low in both quantity and quality, making it difficult for him to carry out the work that has sustained his community for generations.

The sub-canal from which water is sourced for treatment, filtration and delivery to families in two Al Hadam villages. Anjam Rasool/2022.

“The water [available] in the month of November is suitable for cultivation, but in the current month, there is difficulty in farming with this water,” Mohsin continued, referring to the high salinity of water from the Persian Gulf pushing further upstream as the fresh water supplies from the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers continue to diminish. This situation is exacerbated by the delayed start to the rainy season.

Farmers and fishermen from nearby areas have either left in search of better opportunities or stayed and watched their main sources of income dwindle. While Mohsin continues to hope for the rains, ongoing assistance – in line with the area’s 5,000 years of rich agricultural tradition – is urgently needed for those who make their living off the land.

Without sufficient rain and water for irrigation, the earth in Al Hadam becomes brittle and cracked. Anjam Rasool/2022.

IOM Iraq provided Mohsin, and 79 other farmers from the community, with Individual Livelihood Assistance (ILA), in the form of a cash grant that he has used to buy farming tools and supplies in anticipation of the upcoming rainy season.

Continued degradation of water quantity and quality will lead to high risk of water shortage-induced displacement of populations in Iraq; ongoing interventions are needed at the governorate and national levels to best harness existing resources and find adequate solutions for families in hard-hit areas. 

The rehabilitated Al Adlaa water station, which now serves 40-50 families in two of Al Hadam’s villages. Anjam Rasool/2022

The ILA project and water pump restoration in Al Hadam were made possible with support from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

SDG 13 - Climate Action