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"Neither Syria nor Iraq can lay claim to Turkey's rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil. We don't say we share their oil resources and they cannot say they share out water resources." -former Turkish president Suleyman Demirel [1] "Watercourse States shall, in utilizing an international watercourse in their Territories, take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of Significant Harm to other Watercourse States." [2] Introduction The land we know today as Iraq was, in ancient times, called Mesopotamia, or the land of the two rivers - a reference to the two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which fed the region with water, allowing the growth of a great civilization, and which have supplied Iraq with water even to the present day. The water resources are Turkey's, the oil resources are theirs.Both rivers are fed by snowpack and rainfall in eastern Turkey and northwest Iran, and they discharge peaks in March and May, too late for winter crops and too early for summer crops.

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There is also a network of smaller rivers from Iran, some of which feed into the Tigris.

The combined annual flow of the two major rivers was about 80 billion cubic meters.

However, there is an extensive system of diversions and irrigation canals dating back centuries, with more than a dozen major reservoir projects, a few on the main river systems but most on tributaries. Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, July 16, 2009 Indeed, a report issued recently by the European Water Association warned that Iraq could completely lose the waters of the two rivers by 2040.

Iraq accuses Turkey, and to a lesser extent Syria, of sharply reducing the Euphrates' water flow by placing on it hydroelectric dams that have restricted water flow, damaging the Iraqi agricultural sector already suffering from decades of war, sanctions, and neglect It accuses Iran of diverting major Tigris tributaries that has cut the flow of water in the other major river. Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid, the estimated annual Iraq needs are approximately 50 billion cubic meters, 60% to originate from the Tigris and the remainder from the Euphrates. The report was particularly pessimistic about the Tigris River, which could lose 33 billion cubic meters of water annually because of the water policy adopted by Turkey.

The country's need for water is estimated to grow to 77 billion cubic meters by 2015, at a time when water flows are expected to decline to 43 billion cubic meters annually. [5] The reduction in the quantity of downstream water would have a significant impact on the existing hydraulic installations on the Tigris River and would cause a change in the natural pattern of the flow of the river's water, with repercussions on supplies for power generating from two key hydro-power generating systems.