By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
June 4, 2007 – U.S. military engineers have completed nearly 300 major water and sewage projects in Baghdad and across Iraq in the past few years, U.S. military officers reported. "We're proud that we're continuing to reach our target of providing over 1 million cubic meters of potable water per day," said Air Force Col. Lonnie Baker, water sector director for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division in Iraq. Baker is nearing the end of a six-month tour in Iraq and spoke to the media during a Baghdad news conference June 2.
Key Iraqi water-treatment facilities are now up and running in Irbil, Nasiriyah and Sadr City, as well as in numerous rural-areas, Baker said. About 290 water-treatment projects in Iraq have been completed out of a planned 400-plus, he added.
The U.S. government has provided more than $2 billion toward refurbishment of Iraq's water- and sewage-treatment infrastructure. There're still 100 or so water projects left to complete, including well-drilling projects, pumping stations, pipelines and storage tanks, Baker said.
"While our large projects are certainly important, I want to emphasis that our smaller projects are equally important," he said. "There are over 70 small rural water projects that are important to those outlying communities."
Sustaining newly built or rehabilitated Iraqi water and sewage facilities is just as important as providing them, Baker said, noting it is "key to the successful operation of these facilities and continuing essential services to the people of Iraq."
Iraqi managers and operators at more than 140 water and sewage facilities are slated to receive support and operations and maintenance training so that those facilities can become self-sustaining, Baker said.
"Investments in human capital have untold benefits because people pass on their knowledge not only to their co-workers but (also) to their families," Baker said. "And, we believe that investment in one person can have multiple effects, effects that will last for generations in this country."
Iraqi public works ministries have proved to be capable and professional partners in improving the country's water- and sewage-treatment infrastructure, he said.
"We look forward to continuing our great relationship with all the agencies, particularly the Iraqi people, in rebuilding the public works and water infrastructure in this great country," Baker said.
Army civil affairs engineer Lt. Col. Otto Busher accompanied Baker at the news conference. Busher arrived in Iraq in September 2004 and has been working with the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team since March 2006.
"With our infrastructure team, we work on increasing the capability of both the water and sewer system" in Baghdad and its environs, Busher explained.
In the past three years Busher's team has worked diligently to complete important water projects across Baghdad, he said, to include rehabilitation of Sadr City's water-distribution system and upgrading Baghdad's water-treatment plants.
"We've been very successful in the last 14 months working with the provincial council to get potable water and sewer projects going in the city," Busher said, as well as completing smaller water projects at local schools and medical clinics.
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