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الصور تابعة الى قصة سلام حول المياه . AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

The water war in Syria…a catastrophe in four respects

The water war in some areas of northeastern Syria portends a deep crisis, which may have serious consequences, affecting everything related to life after reducing Syria’s share of the Euphrates River, contrary to what is agreed upon regarding the division of the River between Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. In addition, Turkey-backed Syrian factions control Alouk Pumping Station in the countryside of the city of Serêkaniyê / Ras Al-Ain in Hasaka Governorate, which supplies the city of Hasaka and its countryside with drinking water

Convention signed between the three countries in July 1987, provides Syria’s share of the Euphrates River to be about 500 cubic meters per second, while actually, it is no greater than 200 cubic meters per second, since mid-February 2020.

Both reduction and controlling of water sources result in the lack of drinking water in many areas of northeastern Syria, the spread of diseases among the people, and the damage to agricultural resources and livestock, along with the negative impact on the power sector.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Hasaka are thirsty

Turkey-backed Syrian factions took control of the city of Serêkaniyê / Ras al-Ain, in October 2019, subsequently, they controlled Alouk Pumping Station located in the eastern countryside of the city, which completely supplies the city of Hasaka and its countryside with drinking water. Those factions started to stop the pumping occasionally, sometimes for long periods exceeding a few months, which lead to water scarcity in the city of Hasaka and its countryside, amid the suffering of the people to find alternatives

Since the beginning of the water crisis, Abdul Aziz Hussein, a resident of Al-Salihiya neighborhood in the city of Hasaka, has been forced to secure water from tankers, although it is not suitable for drinking, however, they are forced to drink it, which causes them to have various diseases, especially among children.

“In light of the spread of the Coronavirus, we cannot adhere to the most basic preventive measures, due to the lack of water,” said Abdel Aziz describing the situation of the people in the midst of the water crisis

Maha joins Abdel Aziz in appealing to the duty-bearers for the necessity of securing clean water, in order to deal with the Corona pandemic and other diseases left by the lack of water in the city

According to the chief physician of the People’s Hospital in the city of Hasaka,  Antar Sino, the Hospital daily receives about 1,200 patients with skin diseases, including children and elderly, due to lack of water or drinking contaminated water

Sino added that the consumption of unsafe drinking water which is not subject to laboratory analyzes in Al-Hasakah, causes people diarrhea, intestinal infections, and other diseases, which, according to Sino, varied between fungi, eczema, scabies, and leishmaniasis

In addition to the impact on health, the water crisis in Hasaka has resulted in other repercussions, such as the difficulty of securing water through tankers at times, and the frequent occurrence of quarrels between people over related matters

The Autonomous Administration, which was established in 2014, announced in August 2020 about the Al-Hamma Project, which included drilling 50 wells as an emergency response to the water crisis, while local sources reported that the water extracted from some of those wells is undrinkable and that they were constructed within lands private property, which led to the failure of the project

Reducing Syria’s share of the Euphrates water threatens food security and livestock

A Syrian man fills up water from a water tank (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP)

Reducing Syria’s share of the Euphrates water, which rises in Turkey, has affected the agricultural sector in the rural areas of Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor significantly, which has led to a decline in agriculture. Farmers consequently incurred huge losses while trying to find solutions to water their crops

Shaaban al-Nayef, a farmer from Raqqa, was forced to pay approximately $1,400 to dig watercourses in order to deliver water to his 40-hectare cropland, planted with onions and pistachios. However, he had to replace half of the cultivated area with maize, which does not need large quantities of water

Fawaz al-Omar, a farmer from Deir Ez-Zor, owns 2.5-hectare cropland which he has planted this year with wheat, vegetables, and maize, but the Euphrates water dropping caused production to drop by half compared to last year as a result of crops failure. He ended up incapable of recovering even half of the costs of cultivation, he explained

Al-Omar added that during the low water level of the Euphrates River, the watercourse that extends from the river to the water intake pipes became dry, which prompted those in charge of the Agricultural Society to dig this watercourse again, and it took a long period of time, causing great damage to crops

An official source in the Agriculture Committee of the Autonomous Administration in Raqqa (refused to reveal his name), said that Raqqa governorate was getting 80 cubic meters per second of Syria’s full share, but the Agriculture Committee reduced it to 70 cubic meters per second against the background of Euphrates water dropping

The official pointed out that the decrease in water forced farmers to pay large financial costs to purchase irrigation pipes, generators, and additional pumps to deliver water to their lands. The Agriculture Committee had granted licenses amounting to 30% for summer crops such as cotton, 30% for Intensive crops such as maize and soy, and 70 % of winter crops such as wheat and barley, he added

Regarding the irrigated crops, the source said that their area amounted to 107,000 hectares, and the production was expected to reach 267,000 tons in Raqqa, but what the silos received did not exceed 45,000 tons

As for livestock, it has been affected by the scarcity of water, which resulted in the pollution of the Euphrates River water entering the region, as the proportion of dust and river weeds in the water increased, causing several heads of cattle to suffer intestinal diseases and diarrhea, according to Faisal Al-Omar, a livestock breeder in Kasra village in Deir Ezzor countryside

Al-Omar pointed out that livestock breeders urgently need large cement watering troughs close to the river, from which the river water can be pumped, after dirt and harmful substances would be deposited, eventually becoming drinkable for cows and sheep


The impact of water scarcity was not limited to the previously mentioned sectors, as the regions of northeastern Syria depend for 80% on the Euphrates river water to generate electric power, while the remaining percentage is generated in Suwaydiya Station, a thermal power station located in the triple frontier shared by Syria Iraq and Turkey

The hydroelectric dams built on the Euphrates river are the only source of energy supplying Raqqa, Tabqa, and Kobani, according to Ahin Sweid, the co-chair of the Department of Energy in the Jazeera region

Ahin explained that they currently generate about 20 megawatt-hours from hydroelectric dams, which are fed 12 hours a day in various regions, an amount she referred to as “virtually non-existent”, as it is not sufficient to feed the city of Hasaka for more than two hours per day, while Previously, they used to generate 110 megawatt-hours, where water was fairly abundant

Ahin points out that northeastern Syria is a region rich in fossil gas fields, and that gas turbines can be built, as an alternative solution to the damage sustained by the electricity sector due to the dropping of the Euphrates river water. She added that there are hands-on projects, but they need financing and supplying parts, and this is what cannot be implemented currently, due to the sanctions imposed on Syria, as a result of the application of the Caesar Act


The water crisis has left the people of some regions of northeastern Syria caught between a rock and a hard place. Salam Hussein (a pseudonym) reluctantly chose to migrate as this option has become the best solution for her, in order to get rid of the consequences of the water crisis, in light of the absence of prospects of any near solution

“I am seeking to complete my paperwork as well as my children’s, as soon as possible, so that we can travel, and get rid of the nightmare of empty water tanks, and the resentment of tankers owners when contacting them frequently,” says Salam Hussein, a resident of the city of Hasaka

As for Hanan Al-Ali, she is experiencing double suffering, as she considering migration, and already experienced displacement when she was forced to leave Deir Ez-Zor with her family due to the water crisis, and settle in the city of Raqqa to continue work in agriculture which is their only source of livelihood, that heavily affected by the water crisis

Hanan emphasizes that she would not have considered migrating had it not been for the exacerbation of the water crisis. However, the failure to find solutions, the increasing suffering day after day, along with the and insecurities that threaten their livelihood working in agriculture, prompted her to decide to move to another country

Northeastern Syria is suffering from a real four-respects catastrophe spearheaded by water scarcity. Turkey’s capturing Euphrates water from time to time, and preventing the agreed quantity from reaching Syria threatens to exacerbate these disasters, furthermore, increasing emigration from the region, especially towards European countries is one of the manifestations of this situation, which brings to mind the refugees crisis along the border in Greece, besides concerns over that these measures could be a way to emptying the region in preparation for invading it at a later time

Click on the link below to watch a video by Nextep team about water crisis in northeast Syria