Started in 1968, the dam was finished in 1973 with Soviet assistance, at a total cost of US$600 million. It forms Lake Asad on the Euphrates, above Raqqa, Syria. It is intended to irrigate 1.5 million acres (640,000 ha) by the year 2005 and produce six hundred megawatts of electricity. By the mid-1980s, only about 187,500 acres (75,000 ha) were under irrigation and five of the eight power generators were not operating.
When all projects are completed, the dam will take seven billion cubic meters of the thirty billion cubic meters of water that once entered Iraq each year. Iraq complains of this and that the upstream irrigation projects lower Iraq's water quality by raising salinity levels. Turkey also has ambitious irrigation projects under way at Keban and Karababa, which will reduce Iraq's share to eleven billion cubic meters. Syria has protested to Turkey about excessive use of Euphrates water and tried in 1984 to block Arab oil states from making loans to Turkey for construction of the Karababa dam. No treaty exists for sharing the flow, thus this serious dispute has no foreseeable prospect of resolution.
john r. clark