By Jon Leyne
BBC correspondent in Baghdad
On the outskirts of Baghdad, workmen have been toiling frantically to repair a huge broken water main.
It is a punishing experience to have no power in an Iraqi summer
It was blown up by insurgents at the weekend. They knew exactly where to place the charge for maximum damage. It has taken out the water supply for more than half of Baghdad.
"We've been affected badly," complained one man in the area. "We don't have any water to drink. What are we supposed to do? Sometimes they cut the power as well. It's all the fault of the Americans."
It is typical of the frustration faced by the Americans and their allies, as they struggle to improve the quality of life in Iraq.
Figures from the US aid agency US-Aid show that Iraq is generating more electricity now than when Saddam Hussein was in power. But that us not the impression for most Iraqis as they suffer another sweltering summer with only intermittent power.
At the moment in Baghdad, the power is off for four hours, then on for only two. Even those lucky enough to own generators struggle to find the power to run vital air conditioning units.
In the southern city of Basra there were protests about the situation this week.
The temperature there can rise to 50C with 98% humidity. It can be almost unbearable.
The Iraq budget for US-Aid alone, since the downfall of Saddam Hussein, has been more than $5bn. But most Iraqis simply have not seen a difference.
On one job creation project, there is a budget of $88m. It has paid for a series of training centres, like one I visited in the impoverished Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad.
Insurgents know exactly where to strike to cause maximum chaos
I found trainers teaching Iraqis computer skills. In another room, two classes of women were learning to use Chinese-made sewing machines.
They are popular classes. But the day I visited, nothing was moving. The power was down once again.
The staff admit they only expect to find jobs for half the people they train.
"Nothing has changed, maybe it's worse. Life is very hard," said one of the women learning to sew.
Rime and her husband Saad work for the contractors who are carrying out the training.
I asked Rime if life was getting any better, two years after the fall of Saddam.
"No it's not, that's the truth" she said. "But we cannot submit to the situation.
Those who can afford it make their own electricity
"There are some jobs, there are some companies defying the security situation and trying to get things started. And Iraqis are very supportive to such companies."
Rime and Saad know they are putting their lives in danger, just by working on a US-financed project.
"It is dangerous," said Saad. "But one way or another we have to do it. If I believe in something I have to continue doing it."
Little to show
The Americans and their allies point to the steady political progress - the handover of sovereignty, elections, the formation of a government, and now talks on the writing of a new constitution.
The hope was that a new, legitimate, government, would isolate the insurgents and win the support of moderates in all communities.
The trouble is, that has just not happened. If anything the violence continues to increase.
In the last few days, for example, more than 40 Iraqis have been killed in bomb attacks against police trainees, and at a Baghdad restaurant.
It has become so commonplace the rest of the world hardly notices any more.
Remarkably, Iraqis have not lost hope that things will improve. But so far, despite billions of dollars spent in Iraq, there is very little to show for it.