Sunday, April 16, 2006

Clean Water for 2.5 million Basrah Residents

Photo Courtesy of Gulf Region Southern District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Sweetwater Canal pumps are working again.



By Suzanne M. Fournier
Gulf Region Southern District
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Base Camp Adder (Ali Base) Iraq - Cleaner water with a more reliable water supply system will now be available for 2.5 million residents of the Basrah and Thi Qar Provinces thanks to the completion of the Basrah/Umm Qasr Water Supply refurbishment.

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow southward and join together to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway and the port city of Basrah straddles this river. Since Basrah lies at the end of Iraq’s river systems the water further upstream is cleaner than what is drawn from the Schatt al-Arab or adjacent stretches of the Tigris River. In the 1990s, a Sweetwater Canal was built to bring fresher water from the Gharraf River, a tributary of the Tigris, into the city. It was also expected to solve some of the many historic water problems in the area.

The Basrah/Um Qasr Water Treatment Facility is located just south of the Basrah International Airport and takes in water from the 238-kilometer Sweetwater Canal. This man-made canal is a complex system of open channels, siphons, bridges, crossings and culverts. The 195 structures that are a part of this system also include two major pump stations and two 750,000 cubic meter storage tanks.

Unfortunately, this Sweetwater system was constructed under difficult conditions with limited resources; resulting in major operational and environmental problems. It was designed to be concrete lined, but in reality, only 60-percent of this canal is cement lined, which leaves 40-percent unlined clay.

Problems were compounded when the marshes northwest of Basrah were completely drained which removed the filtering effect of plant life and allowed salts in the form of calcium, potassium and sodium chlorides to mix into canal water. In addition, the canal has experienced problems with leakage, bank collapse, breaches and other structural problems -- many of which were emergency repairs under the contract just completed.

The project included a geotechnical survey, pump assessment, head and sluice gate repairs, trash rack refurbishment, sediment removal, engine hydraulics and electronics overhauls, emergency canal repairs, operations training, design for permanent power for Pump Station Two and a computer system to track operations and maintenance.

The US Army Corps of Engineers provided improvements to the Basrah water system using the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. The Basrah/Umm Qasr Water Supply Project cost $16 million and the refurbishment of the Basrah/Umm Qasr Water Treatment Facility will provide an uninterrupted flow of water for the 2.5 million residents of the two provinces.
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