The Committee on Agriculture and Water at the Iraqi Parliament announced on Thursday that four provinces in the centre and south of the country face a drought because ISIS has cut the water supply from the River Euphrates. The provinces affected are Babel, Karbala, Najaf and Qadisiyah.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the head of the committee, Furat Al-Tamimi, said that ISIS closed the Ramadi Barrage (a dam on the Euphrates) after it had taken control of most of the Anbar area. He added that the group is working on taking control of Lake Tharthar in the same province to complete the "water war" strategy that it is engaged in. There is simply insufficient water in storage to prevent a drought crisis.
Al-Tamimi explained that he is trying to diminish the effects of the shortage of water from the Euphrates through the tributaries of the River Tigris. The problem, though, is ongoing and the four provinces are still at risk of drought. He described the situation as "critical" and requiring a "quick move" to prevent it spilling over into other provinces.
According to Al-Tamimi, since ISIS closed the dams the Euphrates is down to about 50 per cent of its normal volume of 200 cubic metres per second. It is expected to fall even further.
ISIS diverted the Euphrates away from its normal course by drifting the Ramadi Barrage towards the middle of Lake Habbaniyah in the Anbar desert. The water level has dropped to its lowest in years.
The militant group has already used the "water weapon" in Iraq, shutting down several dams in Diyali province, in the east of the country, over the past year. This action has led to a drought in some agricultural districts, while other areas have been inundated with water.