The article, “Iraq’s Biggest Dam Could Collapse at Any Time, Killing Thousands”, was published by The New York Times on March 1, 2016.  The topic of this article is related to WRE as it focuses on dams and how they can affect living situations nearby if not continuously kept under supervision. This article discusses how the Mosul Dam could flood, killing a majority of the Iraqi population. Built in 1984, the Mosul Dam is the largest dam in Iraq, controlling the flow of the Tigris River north of Mosul. This dam also holds up to 3 trillion gallons of water and supplies electricity to more than a million people. This dam has been called the most dangerous in the world for the past decade (Independent, 2016). The problem with this dam is that it was built on gypsum rock as shown in figure 1, which is a soft mineral that dissolves easily in water. To stop the dam from leaking, engineers have to continuously pump grout into it (Middle East Eye, 2014). This practice was recently stopped in 2014 due to the fact that the Islamic State seized the dam. Recently, the government retook over the dam, but many of the engineers did not return and therefore, maintenance was not continued. If this continues the Mosul Dam could flood by over 45 ft of water in 4 hours and the Tigris River could rise almost 13 feet within a day causing millions of people to lose their homes. To prevent a collapse, the Iraqi government and United Nations have been working on an emergency plan. An Italian company, Trevi, signed $2 billion dollars to repair the dam, but the work could take up to 18 months, time that Iraq cannot afford waste (ABC News, 2016). Baghdad has also assigned 450 troops to protect the dam site to prevent it from being seized again (The National, 2016). It is still unclear on how the government plans to fix this matter.

In the WRE broader context, this article covers the impacts of this hydrology issue on environmental, economic, and societal areas. The environmental context refers to the safety and stability of the natural environment, the economic context refers to the costs associated with these issues and how much the government is willing to spend to fix these issues, and the societal context refers to the impacts these issues have on communities and society as a whole. Whether the dam will collapse before it can be fixed is unknown. This situation shows how often times society as a whole will need to work together to come up with a solution to a problem that can be detrimental to those in the surrounding area. The Iraqi government, United Nations and Trevi will need to further their research before a successful solution can be implemented, but they will need to act quickly.


Figure 1 Gypsum Layer the Mosul Dam is Eating Away at Causing Leakage (SOURCE: CCTV- AMERICA)


Figure 2 An Employee at the Mosul Dam in Northern Iraq (SOURCE: The New York Times)


Article URL


Italian firm Trevi to fix Iraq’s imperilled Mosul dam. (2016, February 2). Retrieved March 27, 2016, from

Morris, L. (2016, February 13). If the Mosul dam in Iraq collapses, half a million people could die. Retrieved March 27, 2016, from

Mosul dam: A life source in northern Iraq. (2014, August 18). Retrieved March 27, 2016, from

Time to prevent a flood in Iraq. (2016, March 27). Retrieved March 27, 2016, from