Saturday, May 03, 2014

Water and Oil

Al-Qurna, Iraq, 28 April 

Images (c) Jennifer R. Pournelle. "Pipes Bridge," Majnoon Oilfield.

This 250-meter-wide canal was cut 25 years ago to drain marshes along the Iranian border. At that time, water levels topped the culvert pipes beneath the bridge, allowed that precious commodity to flush down the Tigris. Now, a dam conserves what little is left, creating a precious green strip of marsh habitat to the west. To the east, de-watered for over a decade, desiccated reed beds stretch to the horizon.

Royal Dutch Shell, the operators of this oilfield, are, like their national homeland, sensitive to the importance of wetlands and wetland management, and take multiple precautions to protect this small refuge.  No return water is currently produced here, but it may be at some point in the future. When that happens, one option may be to turn the 20 km-long dry bed, for which there is no longer any water supply, into salt- or brackish-marsh. That will be tricky, though. Protecting groundwater from salt intrusion would require lining the bed - and before that could be done safely, the entire 300 m - wide basin would need to be cleared of explosive ordnance left from the 1980s Iran-Iraq wars. #cmarsh

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