Authors: Michael Mason, Zeynep Sıla Akıncı, Arda Bilgen, Noori Nasir and Azhar Al-Rubaie
This policy paper uses open-source software to examine surface water changes in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin from 1984–2015, focusing on Iraq – a downstream riparian state. The timeline captures the impact on Iraq of upstream dam construction, notably in Turkey and Iran, conflicts, and political transformations, and a period of protracted drought across the basin between 2007–18. Between 1984–2015, the area of permanent water in Iraq declined by a third, with greatest losses in the south. There was an 86 percent reduction in area of the Mesopotamian Marshes. In contrast, over the same period, the area of permanent water in Turkey increased by over a quarter.
Mapping long-term changes in the occurrence and variability of surface water is a necessary step in achieving greater hydro-transparency; that is, the open availability of information on the movement, storage and management of water within and across state borders. Increased hydro-transparency, through the public provision of evidence-based information, can build trust between the riparian states (Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran), informing options for more sustainable, equitable and reasonable utilisation of basin flows.