City officials urged Baghdad residents Thursday to conserve water and fill up their tanks in case water treatment stations have to be shut down because of an oil spill in the Tigris River.
The warning was issued three days after insurgents set off a bomb under an oil pipeline near Beiji, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, setting off a fire and causing huge quantities of crude oil to spill into the Tigris, which flow through the capital.
"We call upon people to store and economize the use of drinking water in anticipation of the worst, which is the arrival of the oil spill to water treatment stations in Baghdad," said Naeem al-Qaabi, deputy head of the Baghdad municipal administration.
He estimated that it would take the oil slick about 48 hours to reach Baghdad.
Al-Qaabi said that rubber barriers have been placed around purification stations in and around the capital. But he said those barriers may not be enough and that the stations would have to be shut down.
Al-Qaabi said officials are working with the Ministry and Water Resources to try to divert the oil slick into Lake Tharthar north of the Iraqi capital and prevent it from reaching Baghdad, a city of about 5.5 million people.
In the meantime, he said water towers around the city were being filled to the maximum to store as much water as possible before the slick reaches the capital.