In this week’s Science, Andrew Lawler reports from Basra (paywalled) on problems strikingly similar to the risks in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as upstream water use shuts down a delta river discharge, allowing saltwater intrusion:
The Persian Gulf is creeping relentlessly up rivers and canals shrunken by water diversions upstream and by years of drought. The result is a growing crisis for farmers and the 2.5 million residents of Iraq’s booming southern metropolis of Basra. The rising salinity also threatens attempts to restore the region’s famous marshes—the most extensive wetlands in the Middle East—which nearly disappeared during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
“If we allow nature to take its course, the gulf will move inland,” says Ali Douabul, a marine chemist at the Marine Science Center at the University of Basra.