Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Infrastructure in Turkey

Water Infrastructure in Turkey
Turkey infrastructure


DSİ, the General Directorate of Rural Services (GDRS), which was closed down in 2005, and the General Directorate of Agrarian Reform are responsible for developing Turkey’s irrigation infrastructure. In 1965, less than 0.5 million hectares had been developed by the government and about 1.1 million hectares by farmers. As of 2010, 3.32 million hectares had been developed by the DSİ, 1.29 million hectares had been developed by the GDRS and 1 million hectares[1] had been developed by the private sector.[2]

Although agriculture’s contribution to GDP has declined over the past decades, the agricultural sector still plays an important role in foreign trade. In 2015, Turkey produced 38.5 million tons of grain[3], 17.5 million tons of fruits and 29.5 million tons of vegetables.[4]

Distribution of water resources used for irrigation purposes [8]

Between 1950 and 1965, open irrigation canals were constructed. Irrigation systems with canalettes were introduced after 1965 and were constructed between 1970 and 1980. By 1990, a low and medium pipe network with advanced pipe technologies was being used.[5] To reduce water loss, DSİ has shifted its policy from a classical open channel distribution network to more efficient systems. As of 2014, 9% of existing canals is open canals, 3% is canalettes and 88% is piped.[6] In traditional irrigation systems such as surface irrigation, water is often used inefficiently due to leakages, evaporation and operational losses. Approximately 81% of Turkey’s total irrigated area is irrigated by surface irrigation and 19% using pressurized irrigation methods.[7]


In parallel with economic development and population growth, power generation is also increasing, with per capita power consumption of 3,058kWh.[9] Turkey’s ability to meet energy demand with its own resources is gradually decreasing, and its dependency on imported energy is now 73%. Turkey’s gross power potential is 430 billion kWh/yr, its technical potential is 215 billion kWh/yr and its economically available potential is 125 billion kWh/yr.

Hydroelectric power potential is not uniform in terms of topography and hydrology. The highest energy potential is found in Turkey’s major transboundary basin, the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin. Forty-seven per cent of the power that was generated in 2005 was provided by the Keban, Karakaya and Atatürk dams, all of which are on the Euphrates River. Currently, the installed power of the 125 hydroelectric plants in operation is 11,600MW and the annual power generation is 42 billion kilowatts. So far, 34% of the electric potential has been developed. The strategic plan for 2010-2014, which was prepared by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, set out to complete plants generating 5,000MW by 2013.[10] As of March 2016, 26.5% of Turkey’s electricity output comes from hydropower.[11]

Major regional water development projects

Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP)

The South-eastern Anatolian Project (GAP) was started in 1977. It is designed as an integrated development project that combines economic, social and cultural dimensions with agricultural modernization. The project involves 22 large dams, 19 hydropower plants and large-scale irrigation infrastructure for irrigating about 1.7 million hectares (1.08 million hectares on the Euphrates, 600,000 hectares on the Tigris). By 2015, 36% of the planned irrigation projects were in operation, and a further 9% were under construction.[12]

Water Infrastructure in Turkey
Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP)

Konya Plain Project (KOP)

Konya Plain Project aims to meet the demand for irrigation, domestic and industrial water use, to prevent excess groundwater extraction, ensure balance in the groundwater table, increase agricultural yields, introduce modern irrigation systems, promote stockbreeding and protect the environment. When KOP is completed, 1.1 million hectares will be equipped irrigation facilities and 164 million m3 water will be supplied for domestic and industrial needs.[13]

Urban Water and Wastewater

About 73 percent of the population is connected to a wastewater treatment network. According to the TÜİK, almost 2.7km3 of municipal wastewater per year is treated using extended aeration, biological nutrient removal and trickling filter systems.[14] As of 2012, 34 million people access 3.34BCM municipal and industrial water; 6.66 million m3/day water is treated in 30 cities within 42 domestic water treatment plants.[15]

Potable water and the treatment of wastewater present significant problems, particularly in large cities. Population growth, illegal settling and unplanned expansion of urban areas are putting pressure both on the water mains and water basins. While the water supply is already insufficient to satisfy the needs of the population, unplanned the unplanned urban growth negatively affects the quantity and quality of water resources in the water basins. Water transfer from other basins is recommended to meet urban water needs. Before this can take place, the old, damaged water networks, which cause substantial water losses, should be fixed. Water demand modelling which is based on population growth can be done for the cities, and the financial resources should be found for projects that use the available water resources most efficiently.

[1] DSi, 2014, DSi and Water, Ankara, p.65.
[2] Irrigation development by the public sector is called improved irrigation, while irrigation development by farmers themselves without a project is called public (or also primitive) irrigation.
[3] Turkish Grain Board (TMO)
[4] Ministry of Agriculture
[5] DSİ, 2014, DSİ and Water, Ankara, p. 67.
[6] DSİ, 2014, DSİ and Water, Ankara, p. 70.
[7] DSİ, 2014, DSİ and Water, Ankara, p. 67.
[8] DSİ, 2014, DSİ and Water, Ankara, p. 70.
[9]Erdem Koç, Mahmut Can Şenel, 2012, Dünyada ve Türkiye’de Enerji Durumu -Genel Değerlendirme, Mühendis ve Makina, Cilt:54, Sayı:639, p.34-35.
[10]DSİ, 2014, Water And DSİ, Ankara, p. 44-45.
[11] Ministry of Energy.
[12] Ali İhsan Bağış, 1997, “Turkey’s Hydropolitics of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin”, Water Resources Development, Vol.13, No.4, 567-581, p.568 ; Aysegul Kibaroglu, Annika Kramer, Waltina Scheumann (ed.), 2011, Turkey’s Water Policy National Frameworks and International Cooperation, Springer, London, p.39; GAP.
[13] DSİ, 2014, DSİand Water, Ankara, p.75.
[14] Muluk, Ç.B., Kurt, B., Turak, A., Türker, A., Çalışkan M.A., Balkız, Ö., Gümrükçü, S., Sarıgül, G., Zeydanlı, U. 2013. Türkiye’de Suyun Durumu ve Su Yönetiminde Yeni Yaklaşımlar: Çevresel Perspektif. İş Dünyası ve Sürdürülebilir Kalkınma Derneği – Doğa Koruma Merkezi, p.34.
[15] DSİ, 2014, DSİ and Water, Ankara, p. 90.