Turkey has been a water-stressed nation for at least the last four decades. It produces on average 1,346 cubic meters of water per capita per year. In Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, certain media sources report that the city could run out of water in as few as 45 days. This water shortage is due to a period of record low rainfall combined with mismanagement in the city’s planning.
Local dam water levels have decreased fourfold for the last three years, and are currently at the lowest level since the last decade (an official from the city’s municipal authority denied these claims, reporting that one-third of the dams are currently full). Add to this an aging and inefficient water infrastructure, and Turkey is facing a serious water shortage. According to Dr. Akgun Ilhan, a water management expert from the Istanbul Policy Centre, 43 percent of the water loss in Turkey is due to infrastructure issues.
Government projects also put the existing freshwater supply at risk. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to construct an artificial waterway linking the Black Sea and Marmara Sea. This project could potentially expose freshwater reservoirs to salinization as the waterway would run too close to a freshwater lake that has long been part of Istanbul’s main water supply.
Like Istanbul, many of Turkey’s other cities face a major water scarcity issue as demand grows and supply diminishes. Ankara, Turkey’s capital and second-largest city, could run out of water in 110 days given that dam levels are currently only at 20 percent.
In order to overcome this water scarcity issue, Turkey’s local authorities must look at the issue of infrastructure problems. In addition, Ilhan suggests that new construction projects should be required to utilize more moden, sustainable water technologies, such as rain harvesting and greywater recuse. This, combined with citizen initiatives to reduce water consumption, could raise Turkey’s water levels and prevent a severe water shortage.
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