The legendary Euphrates River has dwindled to perilously low levels in Iraq because of a severe two-year drought, the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria, and wasteful water management by the
Iraqi government and farmers, the New York Times reports. The flow of the 1,730-mile river has been so sharply reduced that lakes and wetlands are drying up; rice, wheat, and barley farmers are unable to irrigate their fields; renowned Mesopotamia date crops are withering; and fishermen are losing their livelihoods. Unless the situation improves, the Euphrates’ flow could soon be only half that of several years ago, the Times reports. Particularly hard-hit are the marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which had been drained by Saddam Hussein but were on their way to being restored several years ago. Once again, however, many sections of marshland are dry. A major reason for the Euphrates’ reduced flow is the network of seven dams in Turkey and Syria, which limit the water downstream. Turkey has recently released more water into the Iraqi section of the river.