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Lance Cpl. Kyle Friel, a motor transport mechanic with Civil Affairs Team 5, Detachment 1, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, carefully navigates his way across what used to be the riverbed of the Euphrates River near the city of Anah, Iraq, Dec. 1. The river level has been in a steady decline due to poor rainfall and lack of water being released from the Haditha Dam. The people of Anah are attempting to dredge the riverbed to preserve their water supply and prevent a drought for them and the surrounding towns. ::r::::n::

Photo by Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

Civil Affairs Team assesses water situation

5 Dec 2008 | Lance Cpl. Paul Torres

The sky was overcast as Marines with Civil Affairs Team 5, Detachment 1, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 drove out to the banks of the Euphrates River Dec. 1 to evaluate plans to improve the water situation here.

The city of Anah depends heavily on the Euphrates River to irrigate its fields and to supply the town with water.  However, since the Haditha Dam has begun to conserve its water flow, the water level of the river has dropped considerably, making it necessary to dredge a canal so the water can still reach the irrigation pumps.

“We have had problems with the irrigation pumps before,” said Ganem Tawfiq Shakir, the mayor of Anah.  “About 10 days ago, the pipe entrance had become caked with mud, and we had to bring a group of volunteers out to crack it so water could flow through the pipe to the pumps.”

Unfortunately for the people of Anah, cracking through the mud was only a temporary solution as the riverbanks continued to recede.

“As the level of the river continues to drop, mud deposits are forming and preventing the water from reaching the pumps,” said Shakir, through an interpreter. “We are taking the steps necessary to prevent a drought.”

The process of redirecting the water to the pump tower has consisted of three phases.

First, workers used high-powered water hoses to cut through as much of the mud as possible.

The workers then removed as much of the mud as they could by hand to create a small canal to breach the mud banks that blocked the river from reaching the water tower. 

“The final stage is that we want to build a 400 meter dam that would divert the water flow of the pumps, and we would be able to put a crane on the dam to dredge out the canal,” said Shakir.

The Marines with CA Team 5 completed their initial assessment at the work site and will subsequently determine how they can assist.

 “This pump provides water and irrigation for Anah, Sagrah, Reyanah, and Hespha,” said Gunnery Sgt Gary M. Gonzalez, 40, from La Puente, Calif., who is the team chief with CA Team 5. “If this water source becomes unavailable to them and it fails to rain, they could face a serious drought.”