By Mike Scheck
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 26, 2009 - Baghdad's Sadr City district, home to more than 2 million Iraqis, was built by Saddam Hussein as a massive urban community to house the thousands of rural Iraqis migrating to the capital in search of jobs. But after decades of neglect, Sadr City's residents lacked even the most basic needs, such as adequate potable water. Two water treatment facilities provided residents with less than 12 gallons per person per day. The average American uses 161 gallons per day.
But a $65 million water plant completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about a year ago is designed to treat and purify water from the nearby Tigris River and provide Sadr City residents with potable water. The goal is to provide hook-ups to residences in 68 of Sadr City's 79 sectors.
According to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, the water treatment plant is producing between 3,200 and 4,000 cubic meters of potable water per hour, which equates to 25 million gallons of water a day. At full capacity, the plant can produce more than 6,000 cubic meters of water per hour.
"The new plant location came as a result of a government study on water pressure and supply," according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water expert Simeon Francis, the former technical expert on the water plant project. "There was simply not enough water to Sadr City from the Kharkh and Shark-Dihjilih water treatment plants. It was then determined that a new water treatment plant was needed near Sadr City."
The Sadr City plant was intended to increase the quantity and quality of potable water to Sadr City and the surrounding area of Baghdad. The new facility tied into the existing raw water supply piping and included construction of a water treatment system, a water storage facility, a pumping station to pump treated water from storage to the existing distribution system, and ancillary facilities such as an administration building, laboratory and an emergency power system.
Project engineers say the modern water treatment process incorporated in the plant is designed with a filtering system that far exceeds World Health Organization standards.
Army Col. Dan Anninos, commander of the Gulf Region District, and charged with completing the Sadr water treatment project, called the plant a major success for U.S. reconstruction efforts and local residents.
"The Sadr City water treatment plant is a vital community asset that supplies quality drinking water to over 500,000 residents and increases the estimated 46 liters of water per capita per day to approximately 200 [liters]," Anninos said. "This is a project we can all be proud of, knowing that it was built by the hands, hearts and minds of our employees for the citizens of Sadr City.
"The facility today is well maintained, and it is being utilized as it was intended. This plant has the capacity to service thousands more citizens, and I am confident over time it will."
Sustainability also was factored into the plant's construction. Under the terms of the agreement, the contractor is to provide training on operations and maintenance, provide the consumables for running the plant and provide options for future plant expansion. The plant employs more than 140 local Iraqis.
Since 2003, the United States has appropriated more than $50 billion for reconstruction projects in Iraq. The Corps of Engineers has played a major role in the effort. Since the 2004 inception of the Gulf Region Division, more than 5,300 reconstruction projects at a construction cost of $9.1 billion have been completed, and 500 projects are ongoing or planned.
"In 2009 alone, the Corps completed 325 projects valued at nearly $1 billion," said Army Maj. Gen. Michael Eyre, commander of the Gulf Region Division. "Some of the projects completed were 41 school projects, 20 village road projects, 25 water distribution projects, 21 electric distribution projects, 12 police stations, seven court projects and two military command centers.
"These projects are providing electricity, clean water, transportation, police and fire stations, medical care and educational opportunities to the people of Iraq — things many of us take for granted," he added.
The goal, Anninos said, is to empower Iraqi engineers.
"We can all be proud of this work and the thousands of other reconstruction [projects] the Gulf Region District has completed over the years," he said. "We have put Iraqis to work, we have assisted in coaching and training and mentoring this nation's many engineers so that they can take control and rebuild their nation one brick at a time, while all along greatly improving the quality of life of the Iraqi citizens."
In the public works and water sector, since 2004, the Corps of Engineers has completed nearly 800 projects generating about 1 million cubic meters per day of safe, potable water from Corps projects alone, providing water and sewage service to millions of Iraqi citizens, many of whom did not have these services prior to the war, officials said.
(Mike Scheck serves in Gulf Region District public affairs office.)