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U.S. Unit Helps Bring Water to Iraqi Farmers

By Spc. Tracy Smith, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq, July 10, 2005 – The Tigris River is the lifeblood of the Arab J'Bour village and other rural farming communities here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Water siphoned from the Tigris River pours into a canal channel through efforts of 48th Brigade Combat Team civil affairs soldiers, working with the people of Yusufiyah. The unit's actions allow water to reach thousands of acres of parched farmland. Photo by Spc. Tracy Smith, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

With that in mind, 48th Brigade Combat Team civil affairs soldiers visited Yusufiyah Pumping Station No. 1 on July 4 to follow up on the progress of military engineering efforts to give the people of that region their own independence.

Thousands of families can benefit from the water supplied by the Yusufiyah pumping station. As a predominantly farming region, the need for water factors greatly into the community's ability to survive on its own.

Servicing a vital irrigation reservoir, the pumping station feeds from the only abundant water source, the Tigris River. Maintaining functionality of the pumping station has been challenging.

The 48th's civil affairs team has been working with Iraq's Ministry of Electricity, said Lt. Col. Scott Carter, the combat team's civil affairs officer. "The goal is to have 12 hours of power a day. But because of the necessity for rolling blackouts, the down-time puts significant demands on the pumping system."

The blackouts are mandatory so the electrical infrastructure can be re-worked to give consistent service throughout Iraq.

An apricot farmer who lives 25 kilometers away from the pumping station and the Tigris, Abou Hamid felt no one had previously taken an interest in the region's situation. He said he appreciates the caring of the military and the 48th BCT Soldiers have shown to the people of Iraq. "We are very proud and very thankful for the U.S. military's help," Hamid said through a translator.

"I see the situation getting better," he added.

Initial requests for blackout exceptions were for 6 a.m. through 6 p.m. This allows farmers to get and store any resources they may need during the day.

Initial surveys indicate 12 pumps are needed to supply the region; however, only eight are operational when full electrical power is available. Generators can supplement the shortfall of power, but the antiquated generators the station currently are hard both to repair and keep running.

Wiring issues do not permit more than eight pumps to operate at one time. A new generator has arrived to the site, and the civil affairs team has arranged for two more to be delivered by mid-July to help supplement existing power.

In the meantime, officials have let some villagers set up private pumping systems.

Adb Allah Umran and his cousin, Hashim Yousif Salah, manage their family's farm, set up such a system. "We do not want to (impede) the pumps' ability to filter to other areas," Umran said. "Because our farming area is large and so close to the river, this does not interfere with our neighbors' ability to appreciate the irrigation waters."

The region's arid conditions won't let a farm sustain for more than two weeks without water.

Hamid thanks the Americans "for everything."

"My dream is to one day visit your country and repay you for all of your kindness, God willing," he said.

(Army Spc. Tracy Smith is assigned to the 48th Brigade Combat Team PAO.)

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