In Baghdad and outlying provinces alike, water purification plants use inconsistent and often ineffective methods, said Dorothea Krimitsas, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, which is working to improve clean water delivery in Iraq.
"Sometimes it's a lack of expertise in the people staffing the plants and sometimes it's a lack of chemicals and equipment," Krimitsas said. "But whatever the reasons, we know steps do get missed."
Contamination after water leaves purification plants is a bigger problem, she said. Pipes across Iraq have been damaged by the war. Others have gone years without maintenance. That's especially dangerous in the many areas of Iraq that also lack operational sewage lines.
"When you literally have sewage flowing down the streets and the pipes for the clean water are broken, it's easy to imagine how it all ends up mixing back together," Krimitsas said.
Muslim Khalaf, a 38-year-old English teacher from Basra, won't let his four children drink water from their faucets. Instead, he drives two or three times a day to a nearby shop to fill an empty water can.
"We know the pipes are all broken, and we know sewage gets in," Khalaf said. "We are fortunate that we can afford to buy something safer."
International aid organizations, the U.S. and the Iraqi government are all working to improve clean water delivery. Since 2003, the U.S. has spent about $2.4 billion on water projects here, according to an October report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Most of that has gone to building and repairing pipe networks, water purification plants and sewage pumping and treatment stations. The U.S. also has launched programs to train plant operators and develop the Iraqi government's capacity to manage its own water projects, said Purdue, the Army Corps official.
"We've definitely come a long, long way," he said. "Millions of people here have water who didn't have it before."
But there's a long way to go, too.
Most estimates put the total cost of delivering clean water across Iraq at more than $10 billion, and that number goes up every time insurgents target pipelines, pumping stations and other facilities. This week, a homemade bomb broke a water main in Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood, cutting service to hundreds of thousands of people, the U.S. military said.
Kinani, the Iraqi lawmaker, said that progress also has been slowed by corruption and incompetence in Iraqi government ministries.
"They don't understand the significance of the problem because they don't go out to meet the people and see the suffering," Kinani said. "This is unfortunate, because the suffering is everywhere."