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Turkey: Istanbul residents urged to save water amid 'catastrophic drought'

Major cities in Turkey face drought crisis, with dams recording low water supply amid high temperatures
Cracked-mud surface seen at Kabakli lake, whose waters are withdrawn from the extreme heat, near the city of Diyarbakir in Turkey on 10 August 2023 (SOPA Images via Reuters)
The cracked surface at Kabakli lake, near the city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, on 10 August 2023 (SOPA Images via Reuters)

Residents of Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, have been asked to reduce their water consumption as major cities across the country grapple with a drought crisis, amid high temperatures. 

On Wednesday, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu urged the city's 16 million residents to save "every precious water drop flowing from the tap".

His call came days after the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI) published data showing that the city's dams were only around 33 percent full as of mid-August, the lowest rate in nine years. 

Water supplies are also falling rapidly in dams serving Ankara and Izmir. 

The water scarcity has been attributed in part to extreme temperatures, with some regions reaching a record high 49.5C, coupled with high humidity.

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In the absence of rainfall, Istanbul dams will be able to pump water for around only two months, Ankara for over seven months, and Izmir for over a year, according to official data.

ISKI general manager Safak Basa launched a water-saving campaign last week to offset the "catastrophic drought" they are experiencing. 

"We are going through a very drought period. While making all these investments, we are experiencing a catastrophic drought in which temperature records were indeed broken," he was quoted by local news agencies. 

He urged people to take shorter showers, as data showed that around 70 percent of water consumption is being traced to bathroom usage. 

'We are experiencing a catastrophic drought in which temperature records were indeed broken'

- Safak Basa, Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration

Turkey does not have a natural abundance of fresh water.

Currently, the country has 1,550 cubic metres of water per capita a year, which is expected to fall to 1,000 cubic metres in 2050, due to population growth and climate change.

In recent years, environmental disasters and climate change concerns have risen up Turkey’s political agenda.

In late 2020, a severe drought threatened water resources in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Experts warn drought is now a reality for Turkish citizens, as 60 percent of Turkey doesn't receive enough rainfall.

“A serious water crisis is rapidly approaching within the next decade if the government doesn’t change its policies,” Murat Turkes, a climate science professor, has said.

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