Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Challenges of Turkey

drought - water challenges in Turkey

In Turkey, as elsewhere, a growing population, urbanization, climate change, losses in water distribution networks, mismanagement and inappropriate irrigation methods are negatively impacting the quantity, quality and efficient use of water resources.

Inefficient water use and management

In Turkey, 73% of the water resources is used for irrigation, and conventional irrigation methods are still the norm on most agricultural lands, leading to a great deal of water loss. Agricultural water use also pollutes surface and groundwater resources. Water pollutants can take the form of sediment, plant nutrition, soluble salts, agricultural chemicals, toxic elements and pathogens. Chemicals delivered with the irrigation water, fertilizers and pesticides can also pose a pollution threat.

Uncontrolled use of groundwater resources in the regions with insufficient surface water (rivers and lakes) represents another challenge. Despite the legal regulations on wells, the use of illegal wells for groundwater extraction is unlikely to stop unless sanctions and inspections improve. Groundwater resources are subject to intense use for agricultural purposes. Because of overextraction, most of the groundwater resources are threatened with extinction.

Insufficient precipitation and the uncontrolled use of groundwater for irrigation is posing a similar threat to surface water resources. Meke Lake in Konya and Seyfe Lake in Kırşehir, for instance, have completely dried up. According to DSİ, 14 lakes have so far been wiped off the map: Kayseri Yay, Çöl, Lake Engir, Hatay Amik, Konya Akşehir, Eber, Akgöl, Lake Hotamış and Yunak, Lake Simav in Kütahya, Lake Gölcük in İzmir, Lake Ece in Çanakkale, Lake Sera in Trabzon and Lake Avlan in Antalya. The Sultan Marshes, which is a Ramsar Site (significant wetland), and Lake Manyas were protected thanks to precautions taken by the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs.

Dependence on water for energy production

Turkey gets some 22% of its electricity from hydropower. The most important advantage of hydroelectric power plants, and one of the reasons why they are preferred over alternatives such as thermal and nuclear, is that they can respond to changing energy demands. It takes just three to five minutes to bring a unit from cold start-up to full load and to decrease power generation again when there is a surplus.


In 2014, Turkey endured the driest year since 1961.[1] The drought posed challenges for the country’s water supply, particularly in metropolitan areas, and directly affected the agricultural sector. The decline in the water levels of dam reservoirs has also caused problems for hydroelectric power generation. The time it takes for these reservoirs to reach their former capacities may even prevent some hydroelectric power plants from generating power.

Bandirma II: combined cycle power plant.(Photo: courtesy of Enerjisa)

[1] No: 228, 4 July 2014, Press Release Regarding the Amount of Water That Turkey Releases from the Euphrates River.