Calcareous water causes urinary diseases in northern Syria; “filtering” is primitive and expensive

Some people in northwestern Syria depend on mineral water to avoid calcareous water damage - June 29, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Abdul Karim al-Thalji)

Some people in northwestern Syria depend on mineral water to avoid calcareous water damage - June 29, 2023 (Enab Baladi/Abdul Karim al-Thalji)


Idlib – Abdul Karim al-Thalji

The calcareous water in the town of al-Dana in the northern countryside of Idlib prompted the 35-year-old Ahmed Saeed to use “filtered” mineral water after suffering from crystal stones, which affected him in both kidneys and prompted him to undergo four operations to get rid of them.

Saeed, who was displaced from southern Aleppo, told Enab Baladi that he no longer uses ordinary water except for bathing and cleaning household utensils, and he now brings “filtered” water in large quantities from shops, despite its increased cost.

For his part, Thabet al-Kasha, an engineer and geological expert, confirmed to Enab Baladi that most of the water in Idlib governorate is calcareous, causing health damage to people, which contributed to the spread of “filtered” water in the area, pointing out that the locals of al-Dana, where he lives, can hardly drink except from mineral water.

Northwestern regions of Syria are witnessing a remarkable demand for purchasing mineral water from shops, due to the health damage caused by the calcareous water, with the lack of sterilization in water stations or random wells, which contributed to the spread of traditional “filtering” stations that often do not meet health standards and specifications.

There is a noticeable demand for “filtered” water at a time when the towns of al-Bab, Qabasin, and Bza’a in the countryside of Aleppo are witnessing a crisis in securing drinking water, the dryness of underground wells feeding the area, and the adoption of unhealthy methods to secure it, amid many calls to find solutions before the “disaster” occurs.

Primitive filtering

Obeida Hour, 30, has a supermarket in the city of Maarat Misrin, north of Idlib, told Enab Baladi that most of the city’s residents drink “filtered” mineral water and that he has a tank with a capacity of 1,000 liters, which he fills from a facility, and sells each 10 liters for 2.5 Turkish liras, which is an affordable price as described.

Hour added that the “filtering” machine is primitive, as “filtered” water of various types and names enters from Turkey to northern Syria. The price of a 1.5-liter bottle reaches 4 TL.

For his part, Ibrahim Hameed, 45, owner of a mobile water tanker in Maarrat Misrin, said that there are two wells in the city, the first of which has calcareous water and is not suitable for drinking.

The second is somewhat acceptable, and people use it for cooking and making tea, but they prefer healthy water for drinking because it is pure and healthy.

“Filtration and isolation”

With the increasing demand for “filtered” water, its high price, and the absence of modern filtration techniques, the northwestern regions of Syria suffer from the problem of lack of clean drinking water, and securing it has become a concern for the population, in order to avoid kidney stones.

According to the engineer al-Kasha, the water in Idlib is divided into plain and mountainous. The first is the water of agricultural lands, in which there is a high level of nitrates and limestone.

On the other hand, mountain water is always pure mineral, and “calcareous deposits” are calcareous rocks present in all places, and when they are formed in the water, they affect human health and cause kidney diseases such as stones and others.

Regarding the possibility of getting rid of calcareous water, al-Kasha said that the most common method is “filtration” using modern, non-primitive techniques, in addition to the method of isolating surface water from groundwater, pointing out that pollution is only in surface water, while mountain water is considered healthy and pure.

He added that the groundwater contains quartz granules, which is a fourth degree in hardness, and there is an “impermeable” buffer layer between the surface and groundwater, preventing their mixing.

Pollution occurs during the drilling process, as the “impermeable” layer is perforated, and the surface water mixes with the groundwater, causing pollution or the rise of lime, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, or any pollutants resulting from fertilizers or waste analysis by rain, or from water and sewage systems.

The surface water is isolated from the groundwater in an engineering manner, through “concrete isolation” that is resistant to sulfate, to prevent the mixing of polluted surface water with pure groundwater.

However, currently, no one uses the isolation method because of its high cost, although it provides completely pure water, according to the expert.

“Al-Bab is thirsty”

The problem of the cities and towns of al-Bab, Qabasin, and Bza’a continues with the scarcity of potable water, amid demonstrations and appeals by the people who raised slogans titled “Al-Bab is thirsty” to find a quick and sustainable solution to the problem.

Local media activist Hassan Asmar told Enab Baladi that the solutions of the humanitarian organizations and the local council were temporary and did not solve the problem radically.

The water crisis began in and around al-Bab when the Syrian regime took control of the sites and water pumping stations of Ain al-Bayda and al-Khafsa in the eastern countryside of Aleppo in late 2016 and cut off the water supply to those cities.

Engineer Thabet al-Kasha said that surface water in al-Bab city has become scarce, and groundwater is mostly sulfur and not suitable for drinking.

He pointed out that one of the humanitarian organizations operating in the al-Bab area had proposed to him a project to solve the city’s drinking water problem by drawing it from the Euphrates River near the city of Jarablus.

He added that the study that was presented to the project is not feasible to solve the problem radically, considering that the best solution is through infiltration wells or water islands or filtering the water properly, as the organization’s project is expensive and does not meet the need or solve the problem, and the water of the Euphrates River also needs a filtration process.

Most of the people in northern Syria depend on water consumption through tanks as a result of the failure of the water networks due to the bombing that the region suffered over a decade, and the succession of military operations, which destroyed part of its infrastructure, in addition to the random urban expansion without extending water networks that meet the specifications and engineering standards.

The price of a barrel of water in the al-Bab region reaches 13 TL, and every five barrels with a capacity of 1,000 liters reaches 52 TL, while in Idlib, it ranges between 25 TL and 40 TL for a tank.

These costs are burdensome for the people, as daily wages range between 30 TL and 60 TL, depending on the profession, such as construction, agriculture, loading goods, and the different number of working hours.

Urinary diseases

Calcareous water leads to the spread of urinary stones, as it is considered that one of the most important causes of the disease is high uric acid, and the levels of inhibitors and electrolytes in the urine, according to Urologist Mohamad Ajam.

Dr. Ajam mentioned that the most important of these electrolytes are calcium, then oxalates, and phosphates.

Calcium is the main element found in urinary crystals, and the high percentage of electrolytes in the body through drinking water is a very positive factor for the occurrence of urinary sediment and, thus, the formation of sand and gravel.

Dr. Ajam added to Enab Baladi that what has been observed recently is an increase in the percentage of sand and kidney stones formation in the region.

The percentage of those who suffer from problems of calcium deposition in the kidneys and the urinary system is estimated at about 20% of the patients attending the urology clinic during a statistical study of patients during the past six months.

Regarding the treatment of kidney stones, the urologist explained that there are many ways to deal with these problems, most notably conservative or pharmacological treatment, surgical treatment, whether open or laparoscopic and extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL).

With each summer, the water shortage crisis weighs heavily on the population in northern Syria, especially the displaced people living in camps in the midst of the intense heat, and a lack of hygiene and public health requirements, as this problem disturbs the concerned parties concerned with the living conditions of the displaced.



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