Clean water for conflict-affected Iraqis near Mosul

In March 2017, as Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) advanced west from the outskirts of Mosul towards the Quba Pump Station on the bank of the Tigris River, IS fighters in the area attempted to destroy critical parts of the water project as they retreated in order to deny civilians in recently-retaken East Mosul their access to clean, safe water. 

Located on the edge of East Mosul in Northern Iraq, the Quba Pump Station covers an area of over 100,000 m2 and is one of the largest water treatment and pumping projects in the area. 

Before the outbreak of conflict, the network treated water drawn from the nearby Tigris River and pumped it into 39 of Mosul’s eastern neighborhoods, bringing safe, clean water to over 800,000 people there and a further 50,000 people in the town of Telkaif and surrounding villages to the north of Mosul. 

Quba’s residents began fleeing the village when fighting reached the area in late 2016 and early 2017, but some are now beginning to return, and many say the absence of basic services and sporadic fighting are of serious concern. 

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) was the first humanitarian agency to reach Quba on 3 April 2017, travelling there as soon as it was possible to safely access the area. 

Surveyors found generators, electrical transformers and circuit rooms bringing power to the pump station covered in gasoline and set alight, as well as evidence that explosives were set off in the filtration unit that makes the water clean to drink. 

Furthermore, the pump room that sends the filtered water to Telkaif town and the neighborhoods of East Mosul was deliberately flooded, in order to damage electrical pump sets crucial to the pump station’s functioning. 

Since the destruction in the Quba station, over 800,000 IDPs and other conflict-affected people in wider Telkaif District and East Mosul have been denied access to clean water mains, instead having to rely on poor quality and unfiltered water from shallow wells and expensive commercial water trucks. 

In an effort to fill the widening gap as needs increase, humanitarian organizations are delivering as much as 2,300 m3 of water by trucks each day into East Mosul. 

“Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental right for all individuals, but in an area like East Mosul that is currently hosting tens of thousands of IDPs from West Mosul and other areas, a lack of access to clean water is also a question of dignity and a potential public health risk that must be addressed with the utmost urgency,” said Ed Hughes, DRC Duhok Head of Office. 

Together with engineers from the Directorate of Water for Ninewa, DRC’s staff conducted an assessment to determine what emergency work is needed now to re-start the pumping of chlorinated water as soon as possible, while plans for long-term, durable solutions by other agencies are put in place. 

“We asked the directorate to send any agency able to support us; there is a lot of work to do,” said Ahmed Ali Mohammed, Operations Manager at Quba for the Directorate of Water in Ninewa Governorate. “We are pleased to see DRC here.” 

DRC initially plans to install emergency pumps and filtration equipment to restore up to 50 percent capacity back to the pump lines into East Mosul and conduct further works thereafter as needed to ensure IDPs and host community populations in East Mosul are able to access reliable and safe sources of water once again.

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