AL-AGHAWAT, Iraq: Younes Ajil turns on the tap in his home but nothing comes out: Dozens of villages are without running water in drought-stricken Iraq, surviving on sporadic water tanker deliveries and salty wells .
For everything from drinks and baths to dishes and clothes, Ajil and her eight children wait at their home in Al-Aghawat for water trucked in from Diwaniyah provincial authorities once or twice a week.
In scorching summer temperatures that sometimes approach 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), he said he had not bathed in four days.
“Even if there were daily deliveries, there wouldn’t be enough” water, the 42-year-old said.
Iraq is known in Arabic as the land of two rivers, but it has seen water levels on the once mighty Tigris and Euphrates plummet.
The Euphrates, which flows through Diwaniyah province, has visibly contracted in recent months, with some of the weaker branches of the river drying up.
Governor Zouheir Al-Shaalan said “about a third” of his province has problems accessing water, with more than 75 villages affected.
Ajil dug a well, but the water is salty.
“We mix that with the water from the trucks and we manage,” he told AFP.
Local children scream and run towards an orange water tanker as it drives down the dirt road in their village.
One person fills a large white tank, climbing on it to hold the truck’s hose as water gushes out, while others wait to fill smaller tanks or even cooking pots.
The children happily splash around in a rusty old fridge that’s been set on the floor like a cramped makeshift bathtub.
The UN ranks Iraq as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change.
Authorities blame drought for current water shortages, but also dams built upstream on some rivers and tributaries in neighboring Turkey and Iran.
Ajil shares his home with his brother Mohammed.
Like most of their neighbors, they lived from agriculture.
But for the past two years drought has brought local agriculture to its knees, so they have sold their sheep to survive.
There are around 50 houses in the village, Ajil said, but only 10 families remain.
“The others are gone,” he said. “If there is no water, there is no more life.”
A report released this month by the International Organization for Migration in Iraq says “climate migration is already a reality” in the country.
More than 3,300 families in 10 central and southern provinces of the country were displaced due to “climatic factors” in March this year, according to the report, blaming water scarcity, high salinity and poor water quality. the water.
Hassan Naim, who manages Diwaniyah’s water resources, said about 20 sewage treatment plants were shut down.
Before, “some rivers dry up, but only for a few days,” he said.
The current crisis has been going on for more than two months.
Naim acknowledged authorities were distributing a “very small” amount of water compared to what was needed, but cautioned against using high-salinity well water.
Diwaniyah Governor Shaalan said that to end the shortages, the province needed to receive double the current water flows of 85 to 90 cubic meters (3,000 to 3,200 cubic feet) per second along the Euphrates.
‘Diwaniyah has no border crossings, oil fields, religious shrines or tourism’ to generate revenue, he said, urging Baghdad authorities to exclude the province from the water rationing plan of the federal government.
“Agriculture is our life,” he said.
Hundreds of angry Diwaniyah residents took to the streets twice to protest the situation.
Razzak Issa, a resident of Al-Aghawat, believes an agreement with Turkey, the source of the Euphrates, is needed to increase water supply.
“Yes, we can ration use, but it’s hot. How am I supposed to ration myself? I don’t swim? I don’t wash my clothes? I don’t bathe my children? It’s impossible,” he said.
He too mixes salt water from his well with water trucked in by the authorities.
“Where can we go?” he said. “Everywhere in Iraq, it’s ‘torture’.