By Ahmad Katlish and Dan Wilkofsky
Residents of Deir e-Zor province already facing inflated bread prices and the reemergence of once-eradicated diseases are now contending with drinking water so filthy as to emit a “strange, loathsome” smell, according to residents.
“The [Deir e-Zor] city’s water stations used to pump sanitized water of good quality, but for six months we haven’t drank water from these stations, because it’s untreated and has a strange, loathsome smell and taste,” one resident named Saad from al-Bokamel, a town on the Iraqi border, told Syria Direct.
Deir e-Zor province, controlled by the Islamic State with regime pockets in the eponymous capital, has suffered from dirty drinking water for more than a year. A combination of factors have rendered the tap water non-potable, which is drawn from the Euphrates River into the pumping stations, said Saad.
Residents listed electricity cutoffs that damaged purification plant capacities and regime bombings of the plants themselves as two reasons for the water crisis in a March 2014 report from pro-opposition media collective Basma Souriya. Raw sewage mixing with the Euphrates has also played a role in contaminating the water supply, leading to 1,144 cases of typhoid recorded in Deir e-Zor province, reported UNICEF last month.
Local water quality further deteriorated after the Islamic State imposed a blockade this past January on regime-controlled areas in the capital, a member of the Red Crescent in Deir e-Zor told Syria Direct.
“It became impossible to supply the purification stations with chlorine because the regime and IS both refused [the aid],” said Ahmed a-Seyyed, who declined to elaborate further.
Making matters worse, IS has prevented workers in the purification plants from receiving government salaries, leading many to leave. In their place, IS has appointed less qualified workers, Hassan al-Ali, a local citizen journalist, told Syria Direct.
IS repairs water lines in two Deir e-Zor villages. Photo courtesy of Isdarat TV.
Tap water is now useful “only for cleaning the house, or for general uses like doing laundry and washing dishes—that is, when it’s available,” Um Mohammed, a government employee in Deir e-Zor city, told Syria Direct.
Although the regime only controls a few districts in the capital and the nearby military airport, at least one official insists that the Syrian government is still pumping “potable water” in the province. It is “in accordance with Syrian specifications,” Rabia al-Ali, director of Deir e-Zor’s Drinking Water and Sewage Department, was quoted as saying by pro-regime Breaking News August 7.