Iraqi public works minister seeks assistance from U.S. water professionals

At a Washington, D.C., meeting hosted in early December by the American Water Works Association, Iraq's Minister of Municipalities and Public Works asked leaders from the North American water community to provide technical and operational expertise to assist her country in rebuilding its water infrastructure...

WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 30, 2004 (AWWA) -- At a meeting Dec. 8 hosted by the American Water Works Association, Iraq's Minister of Municipalities and Public Works asked leaders from the North American water community to provide technical and operational expertise to assist her country in rebuilding its water infrastructure.

Minister Nesreen Mustafa Siddeek Berwari, who oversees 42,000 Iraqi government employees, told a gathering of 20 water utility experts and industry manufacturers that years of conflict and "isolation from information" have left the country's infrastructure in severe disrepair. About 40% of Iraqis do not have access to safe drinking water and only 10% have adequate wastewater services. "Iraqi engineers are very hungry for information," Berwari said.

AWWA President Kathryn McCain said the association would facilitate tours of North American water utilities for Iraqi engineers and coordinate the exchange of technical information and training between the association and Iraqi officials. She also invited Iraq to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Buyer's Program, conducted at AWWA's Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE) in San Francisco, June 12-16, 2005.

"AWWA has the unique opportunity to assist Iraqi engineers as they rebuild and improve their water services," said McCain, a Dallas-based principal and management consultant for the global consulting, engineering, construction and operations firm CDM Inc. "Safe drinking water is absolutely critical to public health protection, economic development and overall quality of life."

The meeting, which took place at The Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., happened at the joint request of the U.S. Department of State and Department of Commerce. AWWA's Manufacturers/Associates Council worked with the Water & Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) to bring to the table representatives from a variety of water industry equipment manufacturers.

Decentralizing the management of utilities in Iraq is one of her greatest challenges, the Iraqi minister told the group. Her ministry wants to give more local control to water utilities and municipalities, but a decentralized structure is entirely new to her country. She also added that she wants to learn more about the public-private partnerships that have proven successful in operating North American water utilities.

She also encouraged the manufacturers and consultants to not fear doing work in Iraq, pointing out that much of the country is safe. "It's not stopping us from doing what we need to do," she said.

About AWWA
The American Water Works Association (www.awwa.org) is one of the most authoritative resource for knowledge, information, and advocacy to improve the quality and supply of drinking water in North America and beyond. The largest organization of water professionals in the world, it advances public health, safety and welfare by uniting the efforts of the full spectrum of the drinking water community. It's based in Denver, Colo.

* SOURCE: www.awwa.org, Used by permission. Copyright © 2004, American Water Works Association.

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