Iraq aims to gain a greater share of river water flowing into the country from neighbouring states through mutual coordination over projects affecting water volumes, the chairman of the prime minister’s commission, Thamir Ghadhban, told the MEED Iraq Energy Projects 2013 conference on 25 March. “This is a legitimate demand,” he said.

Ghadhban added that talks have been held with neighbouring countries about water and that the most pressing issue is with Turkey. “Most of the time, they [undertake] projects without telling Iraq,” he said.

The conference was told that Iraq’s annual water needs averaged 55 billion cubic metres, but the flow of water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers now averaged less than 25 billion cubic metres.

“Once we used to have to deal with floods, now we are dealing with droughts,” Ghadhban said. “This is mainly due to climate change.”

Mahdi al-Hamdani, deputy director of the Water Resources Ministry, said a comprehensive, long-term energy strategy is being prepared and should be finished in 2014. He said the ministry is concentrating on projects involving the harvest of surface water and is building more than 50 small dams to capture water. These will be used to provide irrigation water and, after processing, potable water.

Al-Hamdani said there were no plans for new major dam projects. Iraq’s two biggest dams are the Haditha dam on the Euphrates, which has water storage of 8.5 billion cubic metres and the Mosul dam which has storage capacity of 11 billion cubic metres.

Ghadhban said a higher committee dealing with water issues chaired by the prime minister met for the third time last week. “The idea is to get all the stakeholders in the water sector working together,” he added.