After ten years of conflict in Syria, water supplies are severely compromised, with only 50 Percent of water and sanitation systems currently functioning properly, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Infrastructure has been destroyed through the direct impact of war, power generation capacity is reduced by 60-70 Percent, and in some areas water utilities have lost 30-40 Percent of their technical staff.
Water quality has also been affected negatively: even in areas where physical water supplies are accessible, this water is sometimes contaminated. The wastewater treatment plants of Damascus and Aleppo have been incapacitated since 2012, releasing untreated wastewater directly into the environment and contaminating groundwater resources.
In response, the ICRC has implemented thousands of projects to address the water shortages as well as to support of local service providers. During the first half of 2021, the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent implemented hundreds of projects, rehabilitating infrastructure and reconnecting an estimated 15 million people in areas most affected by conflict.
Throughout the last decade, relief organisations have played a major role in the rehabilitation of infrastructure. A nationwide assessment of water and sanitation facilities by UNICEF in 2013 reported that water supplies had dropped to one third of pre-crisis levels. The current assessment by ICRC estimates that, currently, water supplies are 40 Percent below pre-crisis levels.
The delivery effort is being hampered by funding shortages, drought and low water levels.
In northern Syria, humanitarian organisations have often resorted to trucking water in to places of need, but the reduction in funding for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities over the past year, has led relief organisations to cancel water trucking operations to refugee camps. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in the prevalence of waterborne diseases since June, including the spread of diarrhoea in refugee camps.
Since the autumn of 2020, Syria has experienced exceptionally low rainfall. In the same period, there has been a drop in the flows of water in the Euphrates River from Turkey, reducing the power production capacity of the Tishreen and Tabqa dams, both of which are significant water reservoirs in Syria as well as sources of hydroelectric power.