Aleppo residents continue to face water crisis

By Oliviero Reusser (Twitter)

The inhabitants of Aleppo city, fully captured by the Syrian government and its allies in December 2016. Since then, reconstruction of destroyed areas in the city and reconciliation of former opposition fighters who decided against going to Idlib province and instead settled with the government are currently ongoing. 

One major problem for the city is water: there are about two million people that need to receive water. With the capture of several water pumping stations located in the countryside of eastern Aleppo on the Euphrates River, the supply of water became steady again.  

However, as more and more people came back into Aleppo city after its capture and problems ensued with the water supply, it became harder and harder for the residents of the city to get water; while some parts had their supply secured, others relied on the intake from the newly captured areas on the Euphrates River and its pumping station, namely the Khafsa water station, located 75km east of Aleppo city on the Euphrates river and captured on the 7th March 2017. 

Still, in late June 2017, the city of Aleppo was experiencing water shortages in certain areas. Several people on social media accused the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of cutting the electricity to Khafsa pumping station, disabling it and leading to water shortages in the city; this could however not be confirmed true.

According to a statement made by the governor of Aleppo, Hussein Diab, there are multiple different reasons for the reduction of water supply: Firstly, the water intake into the Euphrates River from Turkey into Syria and Iraq has reduced drastically, going down to 160m3 from the previous 500m3 per second. Several activists and reporters accused the government of Turkey of intentionally reducing the water intake to make the life of people in Syria harder, but this could not be confirmed.

As seen in the images above, a noticeable drop in water flow could be seen on satellite imagery aswell, which confirms the notion that the lower water intake is a major factor for the water problem. As the tweeter, @obretix notes in a later tweet, this however does not seem to have a major impact on the lower areas of the Euphrates (around Raqqa region).

 Secondly, the lower water level also caused the availability of less electricity for the Tishreen Dam, controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces and located north of the Khafsa power station. This also hindered the pumping work of the water plant. Lastly, according to the statement, one of the power lines from Zahraa district, located in western Aleppo city and currently an active frontline with opposition forces led by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), who regularly shell and conduct raids in the area,  was blown up and destroyed during the fighting, which led to no electricity to the pumping stations, causing them to go out of service.

The governor also said that they are currently providing alternative water resources, to help the citizens with their struggle to find water. However, the power lines in Zahraa are already being repaired and electricity started to gradually come back to the Tishreen Dam and the Khafsa station, so water has been slowly coming back into the city.

Residents of Aleppo gathering water at a water tank

Residents of Aleppo gathering water at a water tank

It is for now unclear how much of the city is affected by the most recent water outage and how much of it has come back already, but the situation is expected to be resolved during the next few days.