Overuse and climate change kill off Iraq’s Sawa Lake

SAMAWAH, Iraq – Rising temperatures coupled with a drop in water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have led to droughts across the country, and one area in particular which is in danger of completely drying up is Sawa Lake.

Sawa Lake is located northwest of Samawah in the southern province of Muthanna. The lake is known for its high level of salt, and this year’s drought has left the lake looking like a chunk of salt.

One of the main reasons for the lake drying up is the decrease in water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Iraq’s main lifeline.

Sawa Lake has no inlet or outlet, which means no opening to a coastline. The water comes from the Euphrates through a cracked joint where the water flows beneath it.

Awn Thyiab Abdulla, spokesperson of the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources told Rudaw on Sunday that Sawa Lake “has completely dried up. This is the first time in Iraq’s history that Sawa lake dries up completely. The issue is the misuse of groundwater in the area, with low rainfall and climate change.”

The lake is 5 meters above sea level, 4.47 kilometers long and 1.77 kilometers wide.

Last week, Garmiyan administration in the Kurdistan Region declared a drought year for the second consecutive time

Water scarcity is a severe issue in Iraq. The country is the fifth-most vulnerable nation to the effects of climate change, including water and food insecurity, according to the United Nations (UN), yet it is lagging behind its neighbors when it comes to a plan to protect its water resources.

The effects of low rainfall in Iraq have been exacerbated as the levels of the country’s two main rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, drop because of upstream dams in neighboring Iran and Turkey.

“The outlook for 2022 is worrying, with continued water shortages and drought conditions likely to devastate the coming farming season, the NRC study warned in December last year.

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