Euphrates Dam

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The Keban, Tabaqa, and Atatürk dams on the Euphrates river.

Since 1970, Turkey and Syria have built three major dams on the Euphrates, which as a group will severely limit the river's flow into Iraq. The Keban dam, near Elaziǧ, was the first to be completed. It supplies electricity to large cities in western Turkey. The Tabaqa Dam in Syria is both a major power and irrigation project. The Atatürk (Karababa) Dam, near Urfa, is the most ambitious of the three. It is intended to spur development in the Turkish southeast (something the Keban project failed to do) by irrigating nearly 4.5 million acres (1.7 ha), almost three times the area to be irrigated by the Tabaqa.

When all dams are in operation, of the 30 billion cubic meters of water that once reached Iraq, only 11 billion cubic meters will remain. Since Iraq claims that its minimum requirement is 13 billion cubic meters, there will be a shortfall. Since no treaty exists to allocate the water, Iraq has no recourse; in its weakened political position (since the Gulf Crisis of 1990/91) it will be in a poor position to bargain.

See also Tabaqa Dam.


Drysdale, Alasdair, and Blake, Gerald H. The Middle East and North Africa: A Political Geography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

john r. clark