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Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Quality in Turkey

Aksaray, Turkey - Water Quality in Turkey
Photo 1: Lake near Aksaray. Source: Yavuz Pancareken

According to the Environmental Performance Index, Turkey‘s water and sanitation quality scores 85.06 out of 100. Access to better water sources and sanitation is now available to 100% of the population, up from 86% in 1990.[1]

According to the Water Pollution Control Regulations – WPCR, inland waters are divided into four classes, with Class I representing the best quality and Class IV denoting the worst quality.[2] However, as of June 2021, the revised Surface Water Quality Regulation (SWQR) divides water quality into three categories: Class I is very good, Class II is good and Class III is moderate. Table 1 lists the quality criteria for inland surface waters. Furthermore, the same regulation uses the Trophic Level Index to classify the eutrophication status of lakes, ponds and reservoirs, ranging from ultraoligotrophic to hypertrophic.[3] This regulation identifies sensitive regions and water areas in terms of trophic levels for both inland and coastal waters in order to establish protection measures.[4]

Table 1: Chemical and physicochemical quality criteria of inland surface waters.[5]

Quality criteriaWater quality class I (very good)Water quality class II (good)Water quality class III (moderate)
Colour (m-1)RES 436 nm: ≤ 1.5RES 436 nm: 3RES 436 nm: > 4.3
RES 525 nm: ≤ 1.2RES 525 nm: 2.4RES 525 nm: > 3.7
RES 620 nm: ≤ 0.8RES 620 nm: 1.7RES 620 nm: 2.5
pH6-96-96-9
Conductivity (µS/cm)< 4001000> 1000
Oil and grease (mg/L)< 0.20.3> 0.3
Dissolved oxygen (mg/L)> 86< 6
Chemical oxygen demand (mg/L)< 2550> 50
Biochemical oxygen demand (mg/L)< 48> 8
Ammonium (mg NH4+_N/L)< 0.21> 1
Nitrate (mg NO3–N/L)< 310> 10
Total kjeldahl-nitrogen (mg N/L)< 0.51.5> 1.5
Total nitrogen (mg N/L)< 3.511.5> 11.5
Ortho phosphate (mg o-PO4_P/L)< 0.050.16> 0.16
Total phosphorus (mg P/L)< 0.080.2> 0.2
Fluoride (µg/L)≤ 10001500> 1500
Manganese (µg/L)≤100500> 500
Selenium (µg/L)≤ 1015> 15
Sulfur (µg/L)≤ 25> 5

Groundwater quality has deteriorated as a result of excessive abstraction for domestic and agricultural purposes, resulting in aquifer salinization in coastal areas. The Regulation on the Protection of Groundwater Against Pollution and Deterioration is used to monitor groundwater quality in Turkey.[6] The aim of this regulation is to establish the principles that must be followed to maintain excellent groundwater conditions, avoid contamination and degradation, and improve groundwater quality.[7]

To improve the quality of its waters, Turkey is implementing European Union (EU) directives. The Water Framework Directive, which is part of the EU Water Quality Sector, is the most important directive in this sector. Turkey set out to reach good water status by 2027 at the latest, depending on the exact explanation. Both ecological and chemical quality requirements are covered under the excellent status. The former Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs began preparing basin protection action plans in this area. Initially, 25 hydrological watersheds around the country were evaluated. The quantity, characteristics and pollution status of basins’ existing surface, groundwater and coastal water as well as the urban, industrial, agricultural and economic contexts were taken into consideration when creating the action plans. These include creating water quality maps, assessing the state of the environmental infrastructure, determining the pressures and effects brought on by the actions, thoroughly examining the quantity and use potential of the basins’ existing water resources as well as the sources and loads of pollution, and proposing ways to reduce pollution. Plans, programmes and the prioritization of actions for short-, medium- and long-term measures are created with the involvement of all basin stakeholders.[8]

Projects to update the data in basin management action plans and turn it into geographic information systems have been initiated. In this setting, collaboration between institutions and organizations in the basin is ensured to carry out the projects and make the results applicable.

In addition, Watershed Management Committees, which were formed with the participation of state institutions and relevant stakeholders to implement the action plans, meet at least once a year to assess the measures to be taken within the scope of the action plan, the studies carried out and the progress achieved.[9]

[1] The Borgen Project, 2017. ‘Improved water quality in Turkey linked to protection of rivers.’ Published 7 November 2017.
[2] Burak, Z, Zeki, S, Ülker, D and Bayırhan, İ, 2022. ‘The legal framework of water quality management in Turkey.’ Turkish Journal of Water Science and Management 6(1): 125-127.
[3] The Official Gazette, 2012. The Official Gazette No. 28483.
[4] Burak, Z, Zeki, S, Ülker, D and Bayırhan, İ, 2022. ‘The legal framework of water quality management in Turkey.’ Turkish Journal of Water Science and Management 6(1): 125-127.
[5] Burak, Z, Zeki, S, Ülker, D and Bayırhan, İ, 2022. ‘The legal framework of water quality management in Turkey.’ Turkish Journal of Water Science and Management 6(1): 126.
[6] The Official Gazette, 2012. The Official Gazette No. 28257.
[7] Burak, Z, Zeki, S, Ülker, D and Bayırhan, İ, 2022. ‘The legal framework of water quality management in Turkey.’ Turkish Journal of Water Science and Management 6(1): 127.
[8] Uslu, O, 2019. ‘Water quality.’ In: Harmancioglu, N and Altinbilek, D (eds). Water Resources of Turkey. World Water Resources, vol 2. Springer, Cham.
[9] Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, n.d. Communiqué on the organization, duties, working procedures and principles of the central board of basin management, basin management committees and provincial water management coordination bords – first part.