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At a meeting hosted by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), 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.
Iraq's Minister of Public Works, Nesreen Mustafa Siddeek Berwari, and AWWA Katie McCain met in Washington on December 8 to discuss a variety of issues with representatives of the association's utility, manufacturing, and consulting members.
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.
Approximately 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," Minister 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," McCain said. "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 and 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, Minister Berwari 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.