Turkey in need of extended, persistent rain to avoid severe drought - NASA

Large swathes of Turkey are experiencing severe drought at the beginning of 2021, threatening crop production if current conditions persist, the NASA Earth Observatory said.

The observatory pointed to the water shortage in the country’s most populous city of Istanbul, where dams reached their lowest water storage levels in 15 years.

Dams and ponds that supply water for the megacity of some 15 million, which have the reservoir capacity of 868.6 million cubic meters of water, are currently at the level of 166 million cubic meters, according to data from the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (İSKİ).

In capital Ankara, water levels of the city reached as low as 20 percent last month, the Ankara Water and Sewerage Administration (ASKİ) said.

Turkey’s dry conditions arrived after several seasons of low rainfall, the observatory said, noting that in 2019, the summer and autumn months were mostly devoid of rain, prompting water levels in reservoirs to dwindle.

The year that followed was "the driest of the past five years, with notably little rainfall in the latter half of the year,’’ it said, stressing that since July 2020, almost all Turkish provinces received a monthly below-average rainfall.

In the Konya Plain, located in central Turkey, farmers experienced about 38 percent less precipitation from July to December 2020 than the same time in 2019, it said, noting that this has dramatically reduced grain harvests.

While there is increased rain in the forecast for 2021, the observatory said, it will take "extended, persistent rain to raise water levels to comfortable volumes.’’