The Euphrates: Once Fruitful

Go back to ancient times, and the original name of the Euphrates River makes complete sense.

In the original Greek and Hebrew, Euphrates means that which makes fruitful. Along with the Tigris River, the Euphrates did exactly that for ancient Mesopotamia, as irrigation from the river allowed the first city-states in history to form.

Unfortunately, the Euphrates isn’t what it once was. Issues between the three countries it flows through, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, have sapped it of its former greatness and left the river in peril in the 21st century.

How Long and Deep is The Euphrates?

When all is well, the Euphrates flows for 1,740 miles, starting in Turkey before flowing through Syria and Iraq on its way toward the Persian Gulf. The river can be as wide as about one-third of a mile and 30 to 147 feet deep in some areas. It’s formed by the joining of two rivers, the Karasu and Murat, which exist in the Armenian Highlands.

Why Is the Euphrates Important?

What made the Euphrates such a vital river was the fact that its waters made the land known as Mesopotamia fruitful. The Mesopotamians developed irrigation and brought the water from the Euphrates toward the land, allowing civilization to develop around the region’s farmland. Further success in the area came when the Assyrians and the Babylonians settled the land.

How Far is the Euphrates From the Tigris River?

It’s virtually impossible to discuss the Euphrates without bringing up its partner, the Tigris River. The two rivers are a mere 30 miles apart in some spots.

Why is the Euphrates Drying Up?

River Euphrates in Kemaliye location with the Recep Yazicioglu bridge

Three nations using the river as their main source of water has led to the Euphrates losing a great deal of its volume. Both Turkey and Syria have constructed dams to take water out of the Euphrates, which has left far less in the remainder of the river for Iraq.

The Middle East is also a drought-prone region, and its arid climate has prevented the Euphrates from receiving enough rain water to replenish what the area’s population takes out of it. With a mere 24 inches of rain falling per year in some spots, the river has had little chance to recover from human usage.

Mining also hurt the Euphrates in the past, as the site was once mined for minerals such as silver, lead and zinc. However, mining was abandoned in the late 1980’s, shortly before the Gulf War plunged the region into complete instability.

How Has Pollution Hurt the Euphrates?

The Middle East has been drilled for oil extensively in the past half-century as cars have become the dominant mode of transportation throughout the world. Unfortunately for the Euphrates, the oil-rich area means that the Middle East often ends up quite poor in terms of water. Not only has oil meant an increase in pollution, but the area is one of the most war-torn in the world, which has lead to the health of the river falling by the wayside.

How Many People Rely on the Euphrates?

The Euphrates River basin serves 23 million people, which has made the pollution problems and lack of water in the river a serious issue for the Middle East.

While the Euphrates was once one of the world’s great rivers that helped create civilization as we know it, the sad fact is that the river is in grave peril unless its nations can come together for a solution. The Euphrates might have given birth to civilization, but without serious action in the immediate future, civilization might be what causes its downfall.