Almost half of Turkey’s drinking water wasted, unused

Turkey has been found to waste 43 percent of its drinking water, according to recent figures from the Ministry of Forestry and Waterworks.

Facing a major water crisis resulting from an extended period of drought that began late last year, ministry research indicated that, yearly, 157 days worth of drinking water are lost before hitting faucets.

Turkish news outlets indicated that by the end of July, the long period of drought had exhausted the country’s water reservoirs, particularly in İstanbul, where reservoirs dropped to below 20 percent of their capacity. Recent instances of torrential rain did not seem to help replenish the low supply.

Losses were especially high in the southeastern and eastern regions of Anatolia, where, respectively, 56.7 and 56.1 percent of the total supply of drinking water went unused or wasted. The western Marmara and İstanbul regions exhibited the lowest instances of waste, but still posted figures of 33.3 and 38.7 percent, respectively. Developed countries generally post rates of around 10 percent for wasted or unused water.

There are a variety of reasons for why such a large percentage of drinking water in Turkey goes unused, according to the Ministry of Forestry and Waterworks. Similar to how electricity is illegally stolen and used, water is frequently smuggled through illicit pipes. However, illicit use only accounts for a small portion of the 43 percent, which can mainly be attributed to broken, cracked or burst pipes and connection problems.

Ministry of Forestry and Waterworks Water Department General Manager Cumali Kınacı, in an announcement in June, said losses resulting from illegal use and waste of the potable water supply don’t necessarily impact water scarcity, but underlined that the drought has applied significant pressure on Turkey’s existing water resources.

Kınacı, who said that the average daily water usage rate per person stands at 170 liters, added that extra attention should be drawn toward improving the infrastructure of Turkey’s waterworks, especially regarding control and monitoring systems.

The ministry said that Turkey’s total consumable water supply stands at 112 billion cubic meters, 15 percent of which is used for drinking, 11 percent of which is allotted for industrial purposes and 73 percent of which is used for agriculture.

Many İstanbul residents already choose not to drink tap water, as there is a commonly held belief that, due to the pipes, it is not safe to drink, although officials make claims to the contrary. It is common to purchase multi-gallon jugs of bottled water, which are used with hand pumps.

In July, after many İstanbul residents began to complain of a foul smell emanating from their tap water, the İstanbul Waterworks Authority (İSKİ) announced that it was due to seaweed and rising temperatures and that the quality of the water had not been affected.

The Ministry of Forestry and Waterworks is planning to conduct a forum at the end of August pertaining to smuggling and water loss for the purpose of creating solutions to those problems.

While the capacity of İstanbul’s reservoirs stood at just under 20 percent at the end of July, they were slightly higher than 23 percent capacity at the beginning of this month. İSKİ began neighborhood water cuts throughout various districts of İstanbul earlier this month under the pretext of maintaining pipelines, although many İstanbul residents believe the cuts have been implemented due to the ongoing drought.

Last month, a Ministry of Energy source who wished to remain anonymous told Sunday’s Zaman that if the drought continues, Turkey may have to rely on natural gas to meet its electricity demand, as water reservoir resources would not be sufficient to produce electric power.

Although the levels of İstanbul’s reservoirs continue to decline, Forestry and Waterworks Minister Veysel Eroğlu told journalists last month that there was no water shortage in İstanbul.

Eroğlu, though, announced in a statement at the end of July that the aquifers of the basin in the Central Anatolian province of Konya had completely dried up. The lowlands of the province are the largest in Turkey and are irrigated by the basin, indicating that the agriculture-based economy of the area could be heavily impacted.

The nationwide drought, in addition to depleting reservoirs in İstanbul and throughout the country, has also spelled disaster for many agricultural producers, who saw diminished yields. The prices of various fruits, vegetables and nuts have skyrocketed while wheat producers are expecting production to decline by 10 percent in 2014, as wheat fields were hit hard by insufficient rainfall. Wheat harvests in several provinces were reported to have declined by as much as 50 percent.

While reservoirs in İstanbul were at 19.09 percent of their capacity as of July 31, reservoirs in Ankara were reportedly at 34 percent of their capacity. The levels of individual İstanbul reservoirs were as low as 4 percent and as high as 44 percent of their capacity.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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