Turkey faces water crisis during dry winter

Turkey’s cities are facing major water shortages amid a dry winter, with authorities warning that without rainfall some municipalities could run out within months.


Water reservoirs supplying Istanbul have fallen to their lowest level in fifteen years, the megacity’s municipality said this week, warning that the situation was “dangerous”.


Istanbul reservoirs are below 20 percent capacity on average, according to Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration, compared to nearly 40 percent this time last year and over 80 percent the year before.

Turkey’s largest city, with a population of over 15 million, Istanbul consumes an average of three million cubic meters of water daily.

Even accounting for reduced demand in winter, water supplies could run dry within 45 days, according to the Turkish Chamber of Chemical Engineers.

“Istanbul’s water administrators must immediately decide on at least one of the options, such as water cuts or even rain bombs,” the group’s head Ali Ugurlu said in a statement this month, referring to the controversial weather control technique of cloud seeding.


But Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has urged patience and a conservative approach.

“There is no emergency, but the risk lingers, so I call the citizens to be more cautious while using water, not to use it in excessive amounts,” he said last month.

In the capital, Ankara’s dams are also below 20 percent capacity, leaving the city with enough water for 110 days, mayor Mansur Yavash said on January 5.

To encourage water conservation, authorities would begin charging large consumers at a higher rate to encourage savings, he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also urged conservation.

“Now we are experiencing one of the driest periods. Some of our reservoirs are completely depleted,” he told reporters on Monday.

“Together we need to take action against the threat of drought, from household consumption to agricultural needs,” he said,  advising that savings of up to 50 percent could be made in irrigation.

After the driest summer in seven years, authorities had hoped a wet winter would replenish water supply, with some now blaming climate change for reduced precipitation.

But that is too often used as a scapegoat, according to Professor Mikdat Kadioglu, a meteorology expert from Istanbul Technical University, who told an event in Istanbul on Sunday that the city’s growing population was wasteful with water.

“If it had a population corresponding to the volume of the water it used, Istanbul would not have a water problem,” he said.  Other climatologists state that Turkey is no longer in the Mediterranean climate zone, but must be reclassified as semi-arid.

The draught is already hitting agricultural production hard. After the fertile Trace region, Turkey’s grain silo, Konya, too, reported severe affects of the draught, with farmers starting to use irrigation months before  the traditional cycle.  As a result, the ground water reservoir underneath Konya is expected  to shrink further, leading to infamous “obruks” or sinkholes.

Turkey also began to import basic grains before the summer season:  Turkey has extended the suspension of 20 percent tariffs on wheat, barley, and corn imports until April 30, 2021, according to a presidential decree published in the Official Gazette on Dec. 17.

In a previous decree on Oct. 30, wheat import tariffs had been suspended until the end of this year.

Turkey has reported 14.6% CPI inflation YoY in November.  Rising food and energy prices could temporarily drive 1-2Q2021 headline inflation faster than anticipated, forcing Central Bank to hike a rates a third time.

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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and www.paraanaliz.com and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.