Turkey's Policy on Water Issues

Water is a precious resource, which is gradually getting scarcer. Population growth, industrialization and urbanization have resulted in a substantial increase in water consumption in the world. While the world’s population grew three fold, water use increased six fold during the same period. Climate change has also been putting pressure on water resources. The demand for water is likely to increase during the next twenty-five years.

Contrary to the general perception, Turkey is neither a country rich in freshwater resources nor the richest country in its region. Turkey is situated in a semi-arid region, and has only about one fifth of the water available per capita in water rich regions such as North America and Western Europe. Water rich countries are those which have 10.000 cubic meters of water per capita yearly. This is well above the 1.350 cubic meters per capita in Turkey. By the year 2030 this amount will decline to 1,000 m3 per capita/year with an expected population of 100 million.

Turkey’s water resources are not always in the right place at the right time to meet present and anticipated needs. While certain regions of Turkey have ample but unusable freshwater, some of the more heavily populated and industrialized regions lack sufficient fresh water.

In arid and semi-arid regions in Turkey where precipitation is generally limited to four or five months a year, water resources development projects have become indispensable for sustainable socio-economic development. In recent decades, Turkey has made great strides in water resources development for domestic use, irrigation, and flood control and power generation. The dams and reservoirs built have enabled Turkey to save water from its brief seasons of rainfall to use throughout the year for various purposes. Turkey has been implementing an integrated water basin management programme on its natural water resources.

Turkey’s energy consumption is rising significantly due to rapid urbanization and industrialization. It should also be emphasized that per capita energy consumption in Turkey is only one sixth of that of the EU average and increase in the energy consumption means improving the quality of life of the Turkish citizens. Turkey, which is neither oil nor natural gas producer, plans to meet the rising energy need in several ways, including the increasing use of its indigenous sources and in that respect; hydropower.

Contrary to the general perception in the international fora, Turkey is not only an upstream but also a downstream country in its transboundary basins, which are as follows:

  • Meriç/Maritsa River

· Kura- Aras/Araxes River

  • Coruh River
  • Euphrates-Tigris River
  • Asi / Orontes River

35 % of Turkey’s water resources are generated in its transboundary river basins. Turkey’s policy regarding the use of its transboundary rivers has always been consistent and is based on the following major principles:

· Turkey considers water as a source of cooperation among riparian countries.

· Transboundary river basins have their own characteristics and peculiarities and each case of transboundary waters reflects specific regional, economic, social, cultural and historic aspects. Therefore, transboundary water issues should be addressed only among the riparian countries without interventions by the third parties.

· Each riparian state of a transboundary river system has the sovereign right to make use of the water in its territory without giving “significant harm” to other riparian countries.

· Transboundary waters should be used in an equitable, reasonable and optimum manner.