Committee of Education and Scientific Research

Climate change and water security in Iraq

Samah Ibrahim


1. Introduction

Global Climate Change (GCC) has potential impacts in areas where water is scarce, (Duran-Encalada et al., 2017) such as Iraq, and this concern will continue for the future.


The impact of the climate system in recent years is unequivocal (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008). What is more, it is related to the increases of sea level that have worldwide effects for the last five decades and it is expected to continue for the future unless human’s courses reversed to avoid system further degradation (Adamo et al., 2018)


A number of components of the hydrological cycle and hydrological systems are affected. For example climate change is responsible for: perception patterns changing, changing intensity and extremes, widespread changes causing quick ice and snow melting, increasing atmospheric water vapour likewise for evaporation as well as changing soil moisture and runoff (Huntington, 2006).


Furthermore human well-being and society is linked to water security and the availability of water resource that are also needed for industrial activities, agriculture, drinking, hygiene and recreation. Changes in the water availability through construction dams, precipitation, droughts and depletion of aquifer volumes, have significant consequences for the development local lands and communities.(Duran-Encalada et al., 2017)


Iraq is a country anguished by climate change, as located in one of the most vulnerable regions of the world, hence water security in Iraq is worse than for other countries worldwide.(Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan, 2018a; Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018). Climate change, coupled by intense water needs and water insecurity means that overall there are diminishing the water resources in Iraq.(Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018)


Tigris and Euphrates are the longest rivers in South Asia.(Al-Ansari, N., Adamo, N., Knutsson, S., Laue, J., 2018) the major part of Iraqi’s land relied on the fresh waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for its resources and upkeep (AL-Ansari, Nadhir, 3).Climate Change is affecting the Tigris and the Euphrates River basins in similar ways to all other parts of the Middle East and the East Mediterranean region. This contains also what is historically known as the “Fertile Crescent”, which is threatened in the same way as the other parts and may disappear altogether. (AL-Ansari, Nadhir, 3)


The Tigris River’s basin is about 1800km in length and covers a total of 473103 km2 shared by four countries; 24.5% lies in Turkey, whereas 56.1%, 0.4% and 19% lies in Iraq, Syria and Iran. With total population reaches about 23.4 million inhabitants of which 18 million in Iraq, 3.5, 0.05 and 1.5 million in Turkey, Syria and Iran (Al-Ansari, Nadhir et al., 2018; Dabbous, 2013)While the Euphrates River catchment area cover 444000km2 shared with four countries: Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia: 28.2% Turkey, while 17.1%39.9% and 14.9% Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia(AL-Ansari, Nadhir, 3).


The importance of freshwater to our life support system is widely recognised, as can be seen clearly in the international context (e.g., Agenda 21, World Water Fora, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the World Water Development Report). Freshwater is indispensable for all forms of life and is needed, in large quantities, in almost all human activities. Climate, freshwater, biophysical and socio-economic systems are interconnected in complex ways (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008)


Studies modelling the future trends of climate change impacts reveal clearly that these negative impacts are continuous in the future (Adamo et al., 2018).


To evaluate the variation in Iraq’s water quality parameters, I proposed a systems approach to explore potential future global climate change, and consequently understand its impacts on the water security of Iraq, with special review to social and environmental aspects.


The purpose of this paper is to developing a conceptual system approach with set of distinct parts form the complex whole is necessary and from two stages, where the second stage is a reform for the first one, to define and measure water scarcity and its effect in Iraq also organise the ideas behind water security impact where discovered that the most effected aspects are: Social, historical, economical, enviermental, political and geographical.


1.1 System dynamic approach (SDA)

SDA system has been used on different type of contexts, however the way the system is connected depends on relationships between variables and their behaviour, from problem evaluation to solution predicted (Richardson and Pugh III, 1981).


At first I developed a full size conceptual model, as I addressed the wide impacts of the Climate change effect on water resources in Iraq.(Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan, 2018a)


In this full size conceptual model figure (1), sub-aspects (in blue) drives larger social, historical, economical, geographical, environmental and political aspects (in green). The double headed arrows explain that the relationships are complex and dynamic while climate change affect them all simultaneously, all factors have feedback mechanisms that impacts on climate change as well as each other aspects. For example the more industrialized economy will have higher greenhouse gas emissions and hence will cause further climate change. A larger population means more people and large carbon footprint of total population and hence more emissions more climate change. Accordingly as Iraq develops it also moving towards higher emissions especially that the current government has no interest nor invest in green energy in their current or future policies therefore this exacerbate water security in Iraq.(Al-Ansari, N., Adamo, N., Knutsson, S., Laue, J., 2018)

Figure (1): Model of system approach adressing the mulitible drivers affect water security in Iraq

Iraq is located in one of the most vulnerable regions of the world and it has felt these effects in the forms of recurrent droughts, disturbed pattern of precipitation in the form of its quantity, intensity and timing, increased desertification and sand storms. In addition, salinification of freshwater supplies, increased droughts, pollution, food insecurity, pest and virus invasion, more frequent and extreme weather events and changes in seasonal weather patterns exacerbate existing water security challenges. (Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018)


Perhaps most fundamental risks alarming from these impacts are food security, resource provisioning and health. This can also threaten the social and physical wellbeing of local communities, with displacement and conflict become common responses. It has long been acknowledged that climate events can drive population movements however the true interrelatedness of climate change and it’s impacts on human migration is highly complex, poorly understood and very difficult to quantify.(Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018) However, water is involved in all components of the climate system (atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface and biosphere). Therefore, climate change affects water through a number of mechanisms figure (2).Several gaps in knowledge exist in terms of observations and research needs related to climate change and water.


Information about the impacts related to water and climate change is insufficient – especially with respect to quality of water, groundwater and the aquatic ecosystems together with their environmental and socio-economic extent.(Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008) The current measurement to enable integrated evaluations of mitigation and adaptation options across multiple water-dependent segments. In contrast, according to many researchers, measuring water security, water quality and its availability will be the main burdens for the countries and their societies. (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008)


The next step of exploratory research was to reform the first model. I downsized it and focused in on the environmental pressures under climate change; as it is necessary to improve our understanding of the problems involved. The consequences of climate change are water availability and water quality, established influences on water quality include population growth, urbanization and land use. Changes Increases regions demand of scarcity can force the use of poor or unsuitable water with severe consequences for human health, industry and the costs associated for health care. (Hunter, 2003)

Figure (2): big piture of Climate change impacts

2. Discussion

This section uses the conceptual system designed above to explore and discuss observations of recent changes in water-related variables of the river Tigers and the river Euphrates of Iraq, and projections of future climate change.

Attribution studies shows increases in global temperatures since the last century is likely due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008).Water usage, infrastructure, institutions have developed the current conditions. Changes in the frequency of drought and floods, or in the quantity and quality or seasonal timing of water availability, needed cost adjustments, not only in financially but also in societal terms and ecological impacts, beside the need to manage potential conflicts among different interest group.(Al-Ansari, N., Adamo, N., Knutsson, S., Laue, J., 2018)

Agricultural productivity, of fisheries and forestry systems major depends on the time-based and spatial dissemination of evaporation and precipitation, especially of freshwater availability for crops (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008)

2.1 A reform of the new system approach

A further reform of the first conceptual system approach has been developed figure (3) both environmental and social aspects are enhanced. We explore these particular functions since they connect so closely with each other and with the other drivers and have significant overall impacts on the multi-functional capacity of water in Iraq. There are additional complexities of the climate change within this topic but which are outside the scope of this research question

Figure (3): Research Question; how environmental and social aspect drivers the impacts of water security in Iraq, also consider the Climate change pressure

2.2. Environmental aspects: with less stream flow


To illustrate the complexity of this system in the reform model figure (3) environment is one of the two key component that has been selected for the zoom in for this study. Nine sub-factors (agriculture, salinity, sand storm, desertification, drought, scarcity, biodiversity, food insecurity and pollution) (blue-arrows) have been identified as current problems.


The relationship between the environmental aspects and Climate change is two ways direction due to the global warming that influenced all the sub-elements therefore, effecting the environmental aspects not only in Iraq, but all the surrounding countries.(Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan, 2018a). In the same way climate change lead to water quantity decrease due to the less flow accompanied by water quality deterioration and this increase pollution and salinity, water and soil  contamination. (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008). Furthermore, analysis of long term records of annual average rainfall worsen over the time, alongside population increase, (Al-Ansari, Nadhir et al., 2014). The above factors behave differently as result environmental parameters changed accordingly.(Duran-Encalada et al., 2017)

Environmental resources have impacts on food utilisation, for example, less stream flow plays a crucial role in food production and food availability regionally and globally, since 80% of global agricultural are land fed by rain; therefore crop productivity depends sufficient water precipitation to meet soil moisture distribution and evaporative demand. (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008) In Iraq, the last can be decreased and tempered by the impacts is drought, desertification, scarcity and sand storm. Since these effects become this land fixture, both crop yield and livestock numbers reduced dramatically (Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018). A few recent studies have further quantified that Climate Changes exacerbates desertification through changes temporal patterns of rainfall. In this region, the negative trend of the climate change influence including temperature rise, rainfall intensities, and Tigris and Euphrates Rivers stream flow capacities. This further accelerates desertification through changing the regional water resources’ systems outflow and inflow disrupting. It is estimated that the pattern will decline due to the accumulation level of (GHG) emission by (15 to 25) % over the area. (Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018) (Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan, 2018b)


A study of sand and dust storms events in Iraq by Sissakian et al. (2013) indicated that the frequency of occurrence of dust storms has increased drastically during the last decade and it is increasing continuously. United Nations report evident, indicates that the Iraqi Ministry of Environment has recorded 122 dust storms and 283 dusty days in 2012, the estimate to be increase to 300 dusty days per year in the next decade. (UN, 2013).Alternatively, air quality and population health in distant areas have been affected. A comparison indicate, dust weather condition can carry large concentrations of respirable particles; elements that can affect human health; and bacteria fungal spores. (Van Leeuwen and Földvári, 2013)


Climate change may impose additional stresses water security, causing drought and increased desertification in a developing country like Iraq, it’s become evident that  agricultures is the current marginal enterprise after the area of Iraq and Middle East being known as “Fertile Crescent” for centuries but currently suffering from annual discharge and sever water reduction  (Adamo and Al-Ansari, 2018)


the Middle East, the study showed that, by the end of this century, the “Fertile Cres

2.3. Social aspects with less stream flow


Similar to the environmental aspect in the reform model figure (3), social is the second selected component for this study zoom in, with eight Sub-factors (blue-arrows) as the following (age, education, population health, employment, urbanisation, social networking, demographic changes and displaced population) can be used to measure the both ways effects of the social component therefore on Climate change and water issue in Iraq.

For example, age define the level of vulnerability of an individual and population, therefore researchers measure the level of social vulnerability by the life expectancy of the population by monitoring the differences between age with highlight to the education and education condition in areas within climate impacts, employments rates in consideration to work condition. Likewise when poverty increases, so  does pollution and poor population health increases due to poorer conditions, population growth and significant demand on the health care and their association with climate change as discussed above: observational records and climate projections provide abundant evidence that freshwater resources are vulnerable and have the potential to be strongly impacted by climate change, with wide-ranging consequences for human societies and ecosystems.(Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008). As natural resource redact, contamination of marine life; water quality; population health and life expectancy are affected. Furthermore, any assessments of future health impacts via changes in water availability need to take into account future improvements in access to ‘safe’ water, as uninhabited area lead to migration. (Bates, Kundzewicz and Wu, 2008)


Urbanization and urban pollution demands is highly increased, because of population growth. Furthermore population growth necessitates the need for more lands in order to provide space for schools, work places and hospitals. (Shepherd et al., 2002; Klein et al., 2003; London Climate Change Partnership, 2004; Sherbinin et al., 2006). Some of these factors are effect climate change therefore effecting Iraq’s water security at the centre of this effect directly others in phase indirectly.


The above affect the demographic changes of the area, for less resources and population growth stress the health care, where the last don’t meet the level of demand. Examples include Basra city in the south and Mosul city in the north of Iraq. As these areas become high risk locations, it is very likely that there will be an increase in the water-related impacts and population’s vulnerability of climate change and water quality degradation as result of saline intrusion. (Hayhoe et al., 2004)


With respect to water supply, it is very likely that the costs of climate change will outweigh the benefits globally. One reason is that precipitation variability is very likely to increase, and more frequent floods and droughts are anticipated

In addition, much of the growth is occurring in mostly water-scarce areas, thus exacerbating imbalances between water demand and availability (Cardinale et al., 2012)


3. Conclusion


The purpose of this work is to create a systems approach model that helps to understand and monitor, measure to carry out a research in complex enviermental challenges under the planetary health complexity concept, with Iraqi’s water security in the centre. Iraq is facing great challenges due to climate change impacts on the whole world. Iraq’s role to combat these however, is limited. It follows that corrective and protective actions should be taken in to consideration immediately within Iraq itself to limit and reduce future negative consequences.


In this paper, I proposed that the Climate Change and water problem in Iraq are complex and dynamic system. I discovered that a reformed structure to the origin system design was necessary to accommodate the unique Iraqi situation. It was found that environmental and social aspect and their connection with the big image of the first model was the most effective way to approach it.


The paper then explored and elucidated how identified factors affect water security in Iraq and how that effect is other dimensions such as socio-economic, climate and how they all in process affect the Climate change, and thus continuing in feedback loops. Furthermore, explaining the effect of population growth in Iraq, increasing GHG emissions levels due to developed projects economic growth and poor sustainable management beside the dams’ construction and poor irrigation system are all key challenge and a difficult task.


Possible opportunities in Iraq include converting all the existing irrigation projects to the use of modern methods complementary measure, rehabilitation of all the irrigation structures and use of automation, strengthening the administrative and management framework with better monitoring and control of water sharing and supported by effective legislations and strong authority for their implementation(Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan, 2018a).


Literature and works on Iraq’s water security is very limited due to geopolitical fragmentation since 2003, where the invasion of Iraq occurred.

4. References


Adamo, N. and Al-Ansari, N. (2018) Climate Change Impacts: The Middle East and Iraq in Focus.

Adamo, N., Al-Ansari, N., Sissakian, V., Knutsson, S. and Laue, J. (2018) Climate Change: The Uncertain Future of Tigris River Tributaries’ Basins: Climate Change: The Uncertain Future of Tigris River Tributaries’ Basins Scienpress Ltd,.

Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan (2018a) Climate change: consequences on Iraq’s environment

Al-Ansari Nadhir, Adamo Nasrat, Sissakian Varoujan K, Kuntsson Sven, Laue Jan (2018b) The future of the Tigris and Euphrates water resources in view of Climate Change .

AL-Ansari, N. (3) Water Quality within the Tigris and Euphrates Catchments.

Al-Ansari, N., Abdellatif, M., Ezz-Aldeen, M., Ali, S.S. and Knutsson, S. (2014) Climate change and future long term trends of rainfall at north-east Part of Iraq.

Al-Ansari, N., Adamo, N., Sissakian, V., Knutsson, S. and Laue, J. (2018) Water Resources of the Tigris River Catchment: Water Resources of the Tigris River Catchment.

Al-Ansari,N., Adamo,N., Knutsson,S. ,Laue,J. (2018) Geopolitics of the Tigris and Euphrates Basins.

Bates, B., Kundzewicz, Z. and Wu, S. (2008) Climate change and water Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Secretariat.

Cardinale, B.J., Duffy, J.E., Gonzalez, A., Hooper, D.U., Perrings, C., Venail, P., Narwani, A., Mace, G.M., Tilman, D. and Wardle, D.A. (2012) Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity Nature Publishing Group.

Dabbous, S. (2013) ESCWA, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia.

Duran-Encalada, J.A., Paucar-Caceres, A., Bandala, E.R. and Wright, G.H. (2017) the impact of global climate change on water quantity and quality: A system dynamics approach to the US–Mexican transborder region.

Hayhoe, K., Cayan, D., Field, C.B., Frumhoff, P.C., Maurer, E.P., Miller, N.L., Moser, S.C., Schneider, S.H., Cahill, K.N. and Cleland, E.E. (2004) Emissions pathways, climate change, and impacts on California National Acad Sciences.

Hunter, P.R. (2003) Climate change and waterborne and vectorborne disease Wiley Online Library.

Huntington, T.G. (2006) Evidence for intensification of the global water cycle: Review and synthesis.


Richardson, G.P. and Pugh III, A.I. (1981) Introduction to system dynamics modeling with DYNAMO Productivity Press Inc.

Van Leeuwen, B. and Földvári, P. (2013) Capital accumulation and growth in Central Europe, 1920-2006 Taylor & Francis.



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