Water scarcity reaches crisis point in northern Syria

For 71 of his 81 years, Abu Mohammad Sheikh Hussein has been farming the land in northeast Syria. These last two years have seen some of the lowest water levels in his living memory, he said.

“Before, whoever lived far from the river could dig for groundwater, and they used to find water. But now no matter how deep they dig, they can’t find any source of water.”

Having lost access to groundwater sources, Sheikh Hussein explained that he and others in the area are now depending solely on the Euphrates river, which is near his home.

However, the river has also been dwindling to “critically low” levels this year, according to a report by the World Food Programme.

More than five million people depend on Syria’s longest river for their water source and livelihoods, with the electricity produced by the hydroelectric dams on the river supplying about three million people.

Sheikh Hussein stated that, because of the low water levels in the dams, he and his family are currently only receiving about two hours of electricity a day.

A combination of rising temperatures and decreased levels of precipitation have led to the reduced water levels in the Euphrates.

Another factor perceived locally to be affecting the water levels is the numerous dam projects upstream in Turkey, part of a decades-long development project to build 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

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