Cablegate: Quenching the Thirst: Water for Turkey's

Published: Fri 24 Jan 2003 03:31 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O.12958: N/A
1. Summary. Turkey has invested $30 billion over the past
five decades in a massive water management system that
challenges the limitations of its semi-arid climate. As a
result, Turkey provides household water supply systems to 70
percent of its population, including 62 percent in rural
areas. The thirsty system requires an annual $2 billion
investment and faces financial and institutional challenges
as well as threats to supply and quality. End Summary.
Long-term strategy: 100 percent capture
2. In recent decades, Turkey has built 211 large and 765
small dams that irrigate 4.5 million ha of land, generate
42,229 GWh/year of energy and provide 2 billion m3 of
potable water to 20 million people in 14 cities. Only India
and China have built more dams. To finance its water
infrastructure, Turkey has received IBRD/IDA support,
including $942.7 million for water supply and sewage
projects, $797.9 million for electric power and $118 million
for agriculture projects. This effort has enabled Turkey to
capture 42 billion meters cubed (m3) of its 110 billion m3
of exploitable water. By comparison, exploitable water in
Greece is about half (62 billion m3) and a hundred times
less in Israel (1.65 billion m3). However, Turkey's water
per capita has fallen from 1,950 m3 to 1,580 m3 from 1990 to
2000 due to increases in population, urbanization and
industrialization as well as a decrease in renewable
3. To provide adequate supply for its 67 million people,
the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI)
within the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MOENR)
developed a 30-year plan to capture all exploitable water by
2030. This plan requires $ 2 billion annually for new
construction and operations. As with previous years, the
allocation for 2002 fell short, this time at $1.2 billion.
4. Seventy five (75) percent of water captured goes to
agriculture. About 15 percent goes for industrial use and
the remaining 10 percent for household purposes. The
remainder of this cable addresses domestic water supply.
Septels will address water for hydropower and agriculture.
Domestic supply: Slightly behind world average
--------------------------------------------- -
5. NATIONAL AND RURAL SUPPLY. Water supply systems serve
about 70 percent of the population, including 62 percent of
those living in Turkey's 34,720 rural villages. These
figures fall below WHO estimates that 82 percent of the
world's overall population and 71 percent of the world's
rural population are served by water supply systems.
Turkey's numbers show a stronger water infrastructure for
overall and rural populations than do WHO measurements for
overall and rural populations in Africa (62 and 47 percent,
respectively), but a less complete infrastructure than
Europe (96 and 87 percent) and Asia (81 and 75 percent).
6. MUNICIPAL SUPPLY. Turkey's municipal water systems reach
95 percent of the total municipal population. This number
compares favorably to WHO estimates of municipal systems
that reach 93, 85, and 83 percent in municipal populations
in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, respectively.
7. SUPPLY IN THE SOUTHEAST. The Southeastern Anatolia
Project (GAP) plans to complete its regional municipal water
network by 2010. As of 1999, 42 percent of the region's
municipalities had water networks, 28 percent had networks
under construction and 30 percent had no connection to water
supply systems. In provinces further east -- Agri, Hakkari
and Siirt -- the fewest number of villages have water supply
8. DSI subsidizes municipalities by providing water
infrastructure. Municipalities set their own water pricing
policies, with schemes varying from city to city. Among
samples studied, Istanbul's household water per m3 appears
to be most costly ($.73 - 2.56) and Kaseri's in Central
Anatolia among the least ($.30 - .54). These figures do not
include 18 percent VAT.
A View from the cities
9. Ankara: Without additional facilities, Ankara is
projected to face a water shortage in 2007. The city uses
only two thirds of its stored water due to insufficient
pipelines capacity. The much-needed Isikli project, which
would provide sufficient water through 2027, is currently
unfunded. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (TDA) funded
a feasibility study on water loss management, but the
project went unfunded. TDA also provided funding for water
system feasibility studies in the three cities below.
10. Istanbul: A rapid population increase and an aging
water system that leaks 50 percent of its contents has
challenged Istanbul's municipal water resources. To meet its
water needs through 2040, Istanbul will undertake two major
water projects funded by the Japanese International
Cooperation Agency, including the dramatic Melen project
that will construct large pipelines under the Bosphorus and
build the largest water treatment plant in Europe.
11. Antalya: During tourist season, the population of this
Mediterranean resort surges 73 percent. In 2004, Antalya
will begin the second phase of a $535 million-project that
should meet the city's potable water supply and wastewater
requirements until 2020.
12. Izmir: The recently constructed $120 million Tahtali Dam
will provide Izmir with sufficient water storage, treatment
and transportation for decades.
Institutional challenges
13. The General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI)
was established in 1953 within MOENR as the primary
executive state agency responsible for national water
resource planning, management and execution. Although
employing the best of Turkey's hydrologists, it is
criticized for failing to bring in "young blood" and for
being tight-fisted with information.
14. Discussions with water professionals have identified
three challenges facing Turkey's water institutions: lack of
institutional coordination, lack of data sharing, and under-
trained professionals.
-- In theory, only four government agencies have decision-
making authority in national water policy. Unofficial
counts tally up to seven ministries and 18 general
directorates, plus 81 provincial governates with water
responsibilities and dozens of Water Users Associations that
manage 80 percent of irrigation water. One hydrology
professor called this cacophony "an appalling abdication of
responsibility" of the state. However, an Ministry of
Environment official projected that about 80 percent of
these overlaps would be resolved in legislation submitted to
parliament on 1/8/03.
-- Data sharing is nearly non-existent. Many government
agencies, consultants and researchers monitor water quality.
Each measures different parameters for different reasons.
Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to create a
national data bank. According to a former DSI Director
General, Turkey is "not even close" to establishing a
national water database because the under-funded agencies
compete rather than cooperate.
-- Professional skills need strengthening. With
insufficient expertise available, many technical projects
completed in the 1970s (groundwater modeling programs, river
basin reports), have sat idle or without updates. Newly
developed models become academic exercises with no follow-
up. Often, outside consultants do work that should be done
in-house. Alternately, work simply does not get done.
Some threats to water quality and supply
15. The greatest threat to Turkey's fresh water is
inadequate waste management infrastructure. Only 13 percent
of municipal waste is disposed of in sanitary landfills (Ref
A). The rest is dumped without treatment in rivers and open
pits. Across Turkey, gas stations flush their tanks directly
into groundwater sources. Many wastewater treatment plants
are poorly run. A former DSI scientist told us of one plant
where water was more contaminated after treatment than
16. Deforestation and erosion affect water resources.
Without healthy root systems to cling to soil, rainwater and
snowmelts run uncontrolled and cannot be captured. More
than 75 percent of Turkey's land is prone to erosion and
forested areas have diminished 0.22 percent in the past
decade (20,000 ha per year).
17. An insufficient understanding of water-use principles
at the user level threatens water supply, particularly in
agricultural areas of the southeast. Farmers with newly
installed irrigation systems frequently over-irrigate,
leading to salt-intrusion (salination) and water-rise
problems across broad geographic areas.
Groundwater contamination threatens health
18. Insufficient enforcement of environmental laws and
water regulations, a lack of public awareness, a lack of
political will and a technical inability to match
contaminants with sources compound groundwater problems.
Industrial waste, agricultural run-off and other elements
are allowed to degrade groundwater quality. In addition to
negatively affecting public health, this reduces crop
yields, freshwater biodiversity and quantities of freshwater
fish catches, and increases eutrophication and costs to
reduce pollution levels.
19. Turkey's National Environmental Action Plan lists one
of the three most important domestic water resources (the
Sakarya Basin in central Anatolia) among the most polluted.
The most polluted basins and lakes are concentrated in the
industrialized western region, with only Lake Van in eastern
Anatolia considered "at risk," this due to sewage discharge,
industrial wastewater, and agricultural run-off.
20. Scientific studies brim with examples of groundwater
contamination that outpaces enforcement of the "polluter
pays" principal in environmental law. Many industries are
identified as heavy polluters -- textile industry, sugar
beet plants, paper factories, alkaloid companies. Many
communities fight contamination -- Hatay (organic, inorganic
pollutants), Mersin (heavy industrial pollutants), Adana
(agricultural run-off), and Kemalpasa (cyanide).
21. The former Director General acknowledges that water
quality is not well monitored due to economic constraints.
These constraints also affect DSI's laboratory capacity,
forcing Turkey to send samples to Canada to assure reliable
22. Turkey has made the best of a dry situation, but it
needs to clarify its water management further, strengthen
the professional capacity of its technicians, enhance its
public education efforts, and establish a national database.
Meeting the needs of a growing population will require
substantial investment in infrastructure and continual
institutional vigilance.
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