U.S.-Funded Explosive Hazard Clearance Restores Access to Clean Water in Iraq

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Janus team members move on to the next area after safely clearing a building in the al-Dawassa Water Treatment Facility. (Photo courtesy of Janus Global Operations)
Janus team members move on to the next area after safely clearing a building in the al-Dawassa Water Treatment Facility. (Photo courtesy of Janus Global Operations)

U.S.-Funded Explosive Hazard Clearance Restores Access to Clean Water in Iraq

In northern Iraq, fleeing ISIS militants adopted a “scorched earth” policy in many of the areas they once occupied, making it virtually impossible for civilians to return to their communities safely. In countless neighborhoods, ISIS either destroyed critical infrastructure such as power plants, water treatment facilities, hospitals, and schools, or emplaced explosive hazards to target returning Iraqis and prevent them from rebuilding. In the city of Mosul, after six months of hard work funded by the U.S. Department of State, al-Dawassa Water Treatment Facility has been cleared of deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) deliberately left behind by ISIS, as well as unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the battle to liberate the city from ISIS’s three-year occupation.

Unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices removal is a crucial precursor in stabilizing post-conflict areas because explosive remnants of war impede humanitarian assistance and stabilization efforts. The presence of these hidden hazards coupled with an explosive incident that killed three people prevented repair crews from approaching al-Dawassa facility, leaving families without access to clean water and people without jobs. With support from the Department of State and U.S. Embassy Baghdad, our implementing partner, Janus Global Operations, undertook the methodical and dangerous work of carefully surveying the site and removing explosives hazards. In all, teams safely cleared a total of 168 explosive hazards from the site, allowing maintenance teams to get the plant back on line.

A Janus team member surveys the remains of a room in al-Dawassa facility for UXO and IEDs. (Photo courtesy of Janus Global Operations)

Al Dawassa consists of three main units: the pumping station which takes water from the nearby Tigris River, the treatment plant which purifies and distributes the water, and on-site employee housing. The facility suffered only light damage during the fight for Mosul, but three years of ISIS’s occupation reduced the facility to an inoperable state, requiring a significant amount of repairs. When fully operational, the facility can process approximately 750 cubic meters (26486 cubic feet) of water per day; however, after years of ISIS occupation, the facility’s production capacity declined to 300 cubic meters (10594 cubic feet) per day, well below half of its original capability.

Al-Dawassa is critical to the daily functioning of Mosul. The treatment facility not only provides families with clean drinking water, but also supports local businesses and agriculture. With these critical functions restored, families can return to their homes.

Unexploded ordnance and other dangerous hazards are hard to spot and often blend in with other debris on the ground. (Photo courtesy of Janus Global Operations)

With smart investments in the work of partners like Janus to support stabilization, the United States demonstrates its enduring commitment to bolstering the safety of the Iraqi people. These efforts are not only making a difference in the lives of ordinary Iraqis, but they are also removing the insidious legacy that ISIS left behind, a key priority of the United States and the entire 75-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. 

The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of efforts to clear explosive remnants of war. Since 1993, the United States has contributed more than $2.9 billion to more than 100 countries around the world to reduce the harmful worldwide effects of at-risk, illicitly proliferated, and conventional weapons of war. To learn more about the United States’ global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM.

 About the Author: Emily Hample is a student at George Washington University, who serves as an Intern in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs in the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.