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Minister warns of severe water crisis in Turkey by 2030

Istanbul water shortage

An aerial view taken in İstanbul, on August 29, 2023 shows the partially dried up Sazlıdere dam. The dams of İstanbul, a city of between 16 and 20 million people, have fallen to less than one-third capacity after another hot summer put Turkey's largest city on the edge of a potential catastrophe. The level is the lowest since 2014, leaving city dwellers desperately hoping for rains in the coming weeks. (Photo by YASIN AKGUL / AFP)

Turkish Agriculture Minister İbrahim Yumaklı said the nation is on the brink of a severe water crisis, with projections indicating that by 2030 Turkey’s water availability will fall below 1,000 cubic meters per capita, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.

This alarming forecast places half of the population and 80 percent of irrigated agricultural areas in a dire situation, facing acute water scarcity, Yumaklı said.

The country’s decline in water availability is stark, with Levent Kurnaz, a climate expert at Boğaziçi University, highlighting the gravity of the situation in an interview with Arab Weekly in April. He notes that conditions in İstanbul are so critical that capping the city’s population might eventually become necessary.

The depletion of natural water resources further exemplifies the crisis. According to the Arab Weekly report, in the last two decades, 60 percent of Turkey’s 320 lakes have either shrunk or completely dried up, a consequence of uncontrolled urbanization, commercial activities and agricultural missteps.

A significant portion of Turkey’s water crisis is attributed to agricultural practices. As reported by the World Wildlife Fund in Turkey, 73 percent of the nation’s total water supply is currently utilized for irrigation, predominantly through inefficient surface irrigation methods. This approach leads to considerable water runoff and groundwater depletion.

Experts suggest that transitioning to more efficient irrigation methods, like drip irrigation, could cut water use by half, potentially saving the country approximately 38 billion cubic meters of water annually.

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