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Minnesota National Guard
1-34 BCT Opens Sixth Water Plant With International Presence

Children, officials, sheiks, Italians, Australians and US Soldiers were present for the opening of a reverse osmosis water-treatment plant in Al Kuaam, Iraq, a small rural farming village of 2,000 people on the south bank of the Euphrates River on Feb 18, 2007

"We all know how important clean water is to public health, agriculture, and economic development," said Lt Col Larry Herke, chief of staff for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division "The water treatment plant is a great example of the Iraqi Government making progress to restore basic services to the people of Iraq"

The water purified by the plant is available to passersby through free faucets on site and distributed throughout the village by water trucks for a fee

To put this in context, one must consider conditions before the plant opened: water was delivered from a neighboring city at the price of approximately three US dollars for 45 gallons The average unskilled laborer in Al Kuaam earns about $30 a month Most families have approximately members At the Red Cross's minimum recommended one gallon per person per day, a typical family's 240 gallon monthly water debt would cost more than half their total budget Unable to afford clean water, most families would draw water from the local rivers According to UNICEF, two million tons of raw sewage are released into Iraqi rivers each day Using contaminated water is one of the reasons 80 percent of all patients at the local hospital suffer from water borne diseases

"The plant is capable of providing 20,000 liters of water an hour," said Capt Colin Fleming, deputy civil military operations officer for the 1/34 BCT

The 20,000 liters of water an hour is more than enough water for Al Kuaam The plant can now provide enough clean water for more than 150,000 people

The construction of the plant employed more than 45 local contractors and engineers funded by Coalition Forces through the 1/34 BCT Since unemployment in the area is a major cause of unrest, the workers and their family members are thankful for the jobs in addition to the safe water

The event was attended by Italian officials from the Provincial Reconstruction Team and Australian Soldiers of the Overwatch Battle Group West 2 Civil Military Cooperation Team The Australian team attended to meet with local officials and work towards their own reconstruction projects in Dhi Qar province

Al Kuaam is located 70 miles west of An Nasariyah, the capital of Dhi Qar province in southeast Iraq The Al Kuaam plant is the sixth of its kind opened during the deployment of the 1/34 BCT

By Spc Brian Jesness




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