Does Turkey Have a Fresh Water Supply? Analyzing the Current Situation and Future Challenges

Turkey, a nation straddling the crossroads of Europe and Asia boasts a rich history and diverse landscapes. However when it comes to its fresh water resources, the picture becomes more complex. While the country enjoys a relatively abundant supply compared to many of its neighbors, several factors cast a shadow on its long-term water security. Let’s delve into the current situation and future challenges facing Turkey’s fresh water resources.

A Land of Water, Yet Facing Scarcity: A Paradoxical Reality

Turkey’s geographical location places it within a region characterized by water scarcity. Despite this, the country is blessed with a relatively abundant fresh water supply, thanks to its numerous rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. In fact, Turkey ranks among the top ten countries globally in terms of total renewable water resources.

However, this abundance is not evenly distributed across the country. The southern and eastern regions experience significantly lower rainfall compared to the north and west leading to disparities in water availability. Additionally Turkey’s population has been steadily increasing, putting further pressure on its water resources.

A Looming Threat: The Impact of Climate Change

Climate change poses a significant threat to Turkey’s water security. It is predicted that rising temperatures will cause more evaporation, which will decrease the amount of water in rivers and lakes. Furthermore, it is anticipated that modifications in precipitation patterns will lead to increasingly frequent and severe droughts, thereby worsening the scarcity of water.

The impact of climate change is already being felt in Turkey. Research shows that the nation’s glaciers, a crucial supply of freshwater, are melting at a startling rate. Furthermore, there are now more frequent and intense droughts, which has resulted in water shortages in a number of areas.

A Balancing Act: Meeting Growing Demand with Sustainable Practices

Turkey must balance maintaining the sustainability of its resources with meeting the country’s increasing water demand. The largest user of water in the nation is the agricultural sector, which makes significant economic contributions. Water resources are being strained, nevertheless, by water-intensive crops and ineffective irrigation techniques.

To address these challenges, Turkey has implemented several measures, including:

  • Improving irrigation efficiency: Investing in modern irrigation technologies and promoting water-saving practices in agriculture.
  • Investing in wastewater treatment: Increasing the capacity of wastewater treatment plants to reuse treated water for irrigation and other purposes.
  • Promoting water conservation: Raising public awareness about the importance of water conservation and encouraging the adoption of water-saving practices in households and industries.

Looking Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the challenges it faces, Turkey has the potential to ensure its long-term water security. By adopting a comprehensive approach that combines technological advancements, sustainable practices, and effective water management strategies, the country can navigate the challenges of a changing climate and ensure a secure water future for its citizens.

Here are some key areas where Turkey can focus its efforts:

  • Investing in research and development: Developing innovative technologies for water conservation, desalination, and wastewater treatment.
  • Strengthening institutional capacity: Building the capacity of institutions responsible for water management to effectively implement and enforce water policies.
  • Promoting regional cooperation: Collaborating with neighboring countries to manage shared water resources effectively and address transboundary water issues.

Significant obstacles stand in the way of Turkey’s fresh water resources, but the nation also has the capacity to overcome them and guarantee a secure water future. Turkey can effectively address the challenges posed by climate change and guarantee the security of its water supply for its populace by implementing a comprehensive strategy that integrates technological innovations, sustainable practices, and efficient water management techniques.

This is a call to action for all stakeholders, including the government, private sector, civil society, and individual citizens, to work together to protect this precious resource and ensure its sustainable management for generations to come.

Surface water (main rivers; availability since 19

Turkey receives 450 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water, or about 574 mm of precipitation, annually on average. The potential for surface water that can be used for various purposes under current technical and economic conditions averages 94 BCM/yr. Turkey’s consumable surface and groundwater potential is 112 BCM/yr, of which 57 BCM is utilized (Table 1).

Table 1: Turkey’s water potential.[3]

Mean annual precipitation (mm/yr) 574
Area of Turkey (km2) 783,577
Total volume of water (BCM) 450
Annual runoff (BCM) 186
Usable surface water (BCM) 94
Annual abstracted groundwater (BCM) 18
Total usable water potential (BCM) 112

Turkey is divided into 25 hydrological basins. These river basins differ greatly in terms of catchment size, annual precipitation, evaporation, and surface runoff variables. As a result, river discharges are unpredictable. Sixteen rivers flow into the Marmara, Mediterranean, Black, and Aegean seas from their source in the mountains that border Turkey. Since they do not empty into the sea, the lakes Burdur Lakes, Konya Basin, Akarçay Basin, and Lake Van are closed basins. The Maritza, Orontes (Asi), Araks-Kura, Euphrates-Tigris and Çoruh basins are the primary transboundary basins. [1].

Based on studies conducted by the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, Turkey has 320 natural lakes. Some are seasonal, meaning they receive less precipitation in the summer and more in the winter, which leads to their drying out. The largest lakes are Lake Van (3,713 km2), Salt Lake (1,300 km2), Beyşehir Lake (656 km2), and Egirdir Lake (482 km2). [2].

Groundwater (main aquifers/springs; availability since 19

As previously mentioned, Turkey has a total usable water potential of 112 BCM, of which 94 BCM is surface water and 18 BCM is groundwater. [3] Turkey’s groundwater operating reserves total 18 BCM, although only 16. 62 BCM have been allocated as follows: 11. 21 BCM as agricultural irrigation (individual irrigation, public and cooperatives), 1. 49 BCM as industrial water and 3. 92 BCM as drinking water. [4].

369,054 certified wells were in place as of the end of 2019: 38,071 for drinking, 17,904 for industrial use, and 313,079 for irrigation. [5].

Groundwater resources are governed by the Groundwater Law of 1962. In accordance with this law, groundwater resources fall under the jurisdiction of the state. The protection, research, registration and use of these waters are also covered by this law. [6] Every well has to be registered, but unlicensed well digging is hard to control. Turkey’s groundwater resources are mostly utilized for irrigation, just like they are in other parts of the world.

In order to monitor groundwater extractions and prevent overuse, a groundwater measuring regulation was enacted in 2011. [7] Several challenges need to be addressed in order for this regulation to be successfully implemented, such as the presence of unlicensed wells, the difficulty of ceasing unapproved well use, and changing patterns of precipitation and climate. Despite these challenges, the regulation is a major step forward in the protection and management of groundwater resources.

Is the world’s fresh water supply running out?


How does Turkey get fresh water?

Surface water (main rivers; availability since 1950) Surface water potential that can be used for various purposes averages 94 BCM/yr under today’s technical and economic conditions. Turkey’s consumable surface and groundwater potential is 112 BCM/yr, of which 57 BCM is utilized (Table 1).

Does Turkey have a good water supply?

In Turkey, tap water is generally considered safe for drinking in urban areas. The government has made significant efforts to improve the quality of tap water and ensure its safety.

Does Turkey have a water shortage?

Drought is common in Turkey, especially in the south and center of the country, with 2021 being the driest in 2 decades. Droughts are forecast to occur more frequently due to climate change, and 2023 began with drought.

Is Turkey a water rich country?

Contrary to the general perception, Turkey is neither rich in freshwater resources nor the wealthiest country in its region. Turkey is in a semi-arid region with only about one-fifth of the water available per capita in water-rich regions such as North America and Western Europe.

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