Following decades of neglect and disruption arising from major military conflicts, the water distribution systems in the Qadisiya, Muthana and Wassit governorates of Southern Iraq urgently needed rehabilitating.
The leakage of 60 percent of the water supply caused shortages of potable water, while contamination by saline water and sewage diminished water quality. Addressing these chronic shortcomings was a key concern of residents – both to ensure adequate, potable water supply and to reduce water-borne diseases.
To achieve those goals the three governorates prioritized the Six Water Networks project aimed at repairing, replacing and extending the water network, installing adequate control facilities and new pipes. They hired UNOPS to implement it, with responsibility for designing and managing the work.
Besides delivering the necessary improvements to the water networks, UNOPS used labour-intensive approaches to afford work for the maximum number of project personnel, boosting incomes and the local economy. And to ensure the sustainability of outputs the project emphasized capacity-building. Local staff benefited from on-the-job training in the use of new materials and technologies to maintain, operate and continuously improve the systems.
The tense security situation prevailing in Southern Iraq sometimes required resourceful solutions. In Qadisiya, for instance, cutting water supplies for the month normally needed to replace a main water trunk could have sparked an uprising. By hiring 180 labourers to work simultaneously on excavating a 530-metre trench under the supervision of three UNOPS engineers, the trunk was replaced in less than 48 hours.
In total, UNOPS managed the construction of 55 km of new pipes, provided formal training to 22 water directorate engineers and created more than 2,600 days of labour for local workers. Most importantly, the project provided more than 200,000 local residents with access to clean drinking water. It thereby made an important contribution to achieving United Nations Millennium Development Goals, notably boosting sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, reducing child mortality and combating disease.