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American and Iraqi officials are continuing efforts to get drinking water to Baghdad neighborhoods as the summer swelter worsens problems faced by residents in the capital.

A water distribution site has opened at a joint security station in eastern Baghdad with hopes that it will provide purified water to some 500,000 residents, according to U.S. military officials. The new site — in the 9 Nissan district — is part of an effort to address problems that have plagued Baghdad and led to outbreaks of disease.

At least one person has died of cholera in Baghdad since last summer, with another dozen deaths reported throughout the country.

According to the United Nations, 67 percent of Iraqis don’t have access to piped drinking water and 75 percent have no access to a working sewage system. U.N. officials blame the lack of access to clean water on the continuing security situation, aging infrastructure and corruption.

A July 2007 report from Oxfam, the international relief agency, said 70 percent of Iraqis did not have adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003.

U.N. reports on drinking water — citing Baghdad water officials — put the daily need for drinking water in the capital at 3.25 million cubic meters. Around 2 million cubic meters are piped daily.

The U.N. also cited Baghdad Health Directorate reports that between 200 and 250 cases of waterborne diseases were being treated each week in Baghdad hospitals. The report notes that the figure includes only those who are able to seek medical care.

Only one of Baghdad’s three sewage plants is fully operational, officials have said. Huge pools of sewage are forming at one of the other plants because of pipe blockage, the U.N. said in its reports, issued in April.

Among the other efforts to bring drinking water to neighborhoods is the installation of reverse osmosis water purification units — called "rowpus" — in places such as Sadr City and Rasheed.

The 9 Nissan site was the result of efforts by Baghdad water officials, Iraqi security forces and members of the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

Trucks also have been contracted to bring the water from the small outpost to neighborhoods in the area, in a program that has been dubbed "Patriot H20."

Lack of water and electricity has long been among the chief complaints of Baghdad residents, and with the recent lull in fighting, American officials have said they will try to push infrastructure programs that were often swept aside by combat missions.

The purification units have been called a "short-term plan" by the military, with a goal of having a permanent system in place before next summer.


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