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Irbil Water Treatment Plant a Model for the Region


Recent outbreaks of cholera in parts of Iraq highlight the need for basic services like clean water. Development projects in much of the country have been delayed because of the deteriorating security situation there. But in the relatively safe Kurdish north, a U.S. development official points to new progress. VOA's Brian Padden reports how the city of Irbil 's new water treatment plant is the solution for the growing demand for potable water.

Located on the banks of the Zab River in Northern Iraq, the Ifraz water treatment plant now produces clean drinking water for more than half a million people in the Kurdish city of Irbil. Gary York with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says this facility is one of the largest Iraq reconstruction projects funded primarily by American aid.

"The Ifraz was, I believe the second largest (dollar-wise) construction project in the country, coming in right around the $191 million mark," said York.

Like similar treatment plants around the world, various filters here remove solid waste, and chemicals like chlorine disinfect the water. "By World Health standards this water has to be five parts per million," said York. "As you can see we are coming out not even one part per million."

The facility produces 6,000 cubic meters of clean water an hour and pumps it to the city, 32 kilometers away.

Initially the water pressure produced by Ifraz caused leaks in many of the city's existing water mains.

Those neighborhoods not connected to Ifraz still rely on deep wells owned by the city. Mashood Omar operates a well that serves about 1,000 homes. He says there is no testing for water quality, and service is sporadic. "There are three pipes, and we open one pipe per day," he said.

A U.S. development official credits the relative peace and security of the region for the success of the treatment plant in Irbil.

If the insurgency would ease, he says, this could be a solution for other parts of Iraq.