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Water Management in Turkey

Water Management in Turkey

In accordance with Article 168 of the 1982 Constitution, ‘natural wealth and resources’ shall be placed under the control of and put at the disposal of the state. The right to explore and exploit natural resources belongs to the state. Accordingly, there are many organizations directly aimed at water or indirectly related to the development and protection of water resources in Turkey.

  • The Ministry for Development takes part in decision-making mechanisms;
  • The Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSİ), Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Provisional Special Administrations are involved in water management and development;
  • In 2012, a Water Management Coordination Committee (WMCC) was established. The WMCC is responsible for determining measures to protect water resources ‘in a holistic way’, ensuring the coordination and cooperation of different sectors, enhancing water-related investments and implementing institutional responsibilities stated in river basin management plans. Various ministries are represented in the WMCC;[1] 
  • Water users are represented by farmers, water user units and other water consumers.

DSİ, affiliated with the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, was established in 1954. DSİ is responsible for supplying domestic and industrial water to settlements, taking the necessary measures against flood hazards, equipping all economically irrigable land and developing technically viable hydroelectric energy potential. DSİ has regional units that were established according to the river basins.[2]

Protrracted discussions about the creation of a ministry responsible for water resources took their final form in 2011 with the creation of the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs. This ministry oversees the development of policies related to the protection and sustainable use of water resources and the coordination of national water management. Hydraulic works are handled by the General Directorate for Water Management. The significant remit encompasses:

  • Designing the policies related to the protection, improvement and utilization of water resources;
  • Coordinating water management at the national and international level;
  • Preparing the river basin management plans to ensure the protection and development of the ecological and chemical quality of the aquatic environment, including coastal waters; and regulating the integrated management of river basins;
  • Adhering to international agreements and other regulations related to the protection and management of water resources, and conducting the works related to transboundary waters with the cooperation of the concerned agencies;
  • Creating a national water database. This will go a long way to solving the problems of data deficiency and inconsistency, which were among the largest gaps in the management of water resources.[3] 

Until the early 1990s, the operation and maintenance of irrigation facilities were carried out by governmental bodies. These bodies transferred the management but not the ownership of these facilities to several organizations in accordance with the terms of a 1993 World Bank loan, mostly to water user associations, which cover about 1.52 million hectares of land. The responsibilities of the former GDRS were reassigned to the Special Provincial Administrations after the GDRS was closed down in 2005.[4] In March 2011, the supervisory role of the DSİ over water user associations was strengthened by the enactment of a new Irrigation Association Law. The new law recognized the DSİ as the dominant public water authority that acts as an ‘advisory and controlling institution’ to water user associations.[5]


[1] Nermin Çiçek & Özge Hande Sahtiyanci, Developments in Turkey in the Context of Participatory Approach Based on River Basin Management, at 3 [n.d.].
[2] DSİ, 2014, DSİ and Water, Ankara, p. 9.
[3] Ministry of Forestry and Water.
[4] Aysegül Kibaroglu, Argun Baskan and Sezin Alp, Neoliberal Transitions in Hydropower and Irrigation Water Management in Turkey: Main Actors and Opposition Groups, 2009, Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink (Ed.), Water Policy Entrepreneurs A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, Massachusetts, p.296.
[5] Sulama Birlikleri Kanunu [Irrigation Associations Law], No. 6172 (Mar. 8, 2011), 27882 R.G. (Mar. 22, 2011).