Turkey’s water troubles growing over rising demand and climate change

Late-arriving precipitation has eased water shortage in Turkey’s most populous city of Istanbul, but the country’s water troubles are far from over, Reuters reported on Monday.

“Population growth, urbanisation, climate change and poor water management” are the main reasons for Turkey’s decreasing water supplies, Reuters said, citing climate and water experts.

Available water in Turkey has been decreasing steadily over the past two decades, reaching to less than 1,350 cubic meters per person in 2020, according to Turkey’s General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI) data, Reuters reported.

The United Nations defines a country as water stressed if it falls below 1,700 cubic metres.

“Instead of trying to reduce our water demand, or decrease the amount lost through broken pipes and leaks, we are just focused on creating more supply by building new dams,” said Akgün İlhan, a water management expert at the Istanbul Policy Centre, told Reuters.

The dams have a negative impact on the ecosystem, İlhan said.

Agriculture annually consumes around 75 percent of the water, Sara Marjani Zadeh, a regional water quality officer for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, while Gökhan Özertan, a professor of economics at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, stressed that “efforts for farmers to shift to water-saving - but also energy-demanding - irrigation methods so far have yielded no major change.”

Turkey’s water troubles will further scale up due to the impacts of climate change, according to İlhan.

“Climate impacts like drought and flooding may cut yields of key Turkish export crops like hazelnuts, apricots and wheat by as much as 40 percent in the coming decade,” Özertan said.

Lots of farmers who are struggling to survive financially are moving to big cities, putting more pressure on water supplies there, Reuters said.

Opposition mayors from 22 cities, representing around 65 percent of the country’s population, signed a manifesto, pledging to better manage water in March, and urged the government to do the same, Reuters recalled.