Istanbul facing drastic water shortages brought on by climate change


Istanbul facing drastic water shortages brought on by climate change

Issued on: 26/08/2023 - 09:02

Turkey's largest city faces one of its worst droughts with record high temperatures, blamed on climate change. With many of the city's water reservoirs nearly empty, experts warn Istanbul could face water shortages in just weeks if rain doesn't come.

A water crisis is impacting Istanbul, Turkey. AFP - DANTE FERNANDEZ

Grass now grows in many reservoirs that were once filled with water in Istanbul. A dry winter followed by a summer with record-high temperatures have nearly emptied many of the city's dams.

The city authorities regularly update the falling dam levels and warn of the need for conservation.

As a result, the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI) on Wednesday announced emergency efforts and longterm plans to deal with the growing water crisis the city is facing.

"The biggest threat to the world is the climate crisis," declared Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu, speaking at a conference this week.

"The struggle against the climate crisis will grow. In this respect, we should be able to look at this fundamental issue of the world in the name of humanity and recognise that this is beyond an individual state issue, and we should be prepared," the mayor added.

Be prepared

Water is now being pumped nearly from the Melen River, 200 kilometres away, to meet the needs of Istanbul's 16 million inhabitants. The city's unique geography is complicating those efforts. The Bosphorus waterway divides Istanbul between Europe and Asia, making it increasingly tricky to juggle water supplies across two continents.

"We've got an integrated water management and are doing the most optimisation studies," explains Tugba Olmez-Hanci, head of Strategy Development Istanbul's Water and Sewerage Administration.

"In the Asian part, the population is 35 percent, while in the European part of Istanbul, the population is 65 percent. Water sources are higher in the Asian part and are lower by approximately 30 percent in the European part," Hanci explains.

Water authorities have produced videos calling on consumers to reduce their consumption while high users receive text messages warning of their consumption. Special valves are offered to reduce water pressure.

Waiting for rain

But with record temperatures increasing evaporation from the remaining water in Istanbul's dams, Dursun Yildiz, head of Turkey's Hydropolitics Association, warns time could be running out for the city if rain doesn't come soon.

If there isn't sufficient precipitation in the coming months, the city's administration will have to put special measures in place, he says.

 "All these things depend on weather conditions in September and October. Waters users and water administrators need to change their attitude to use water as efficiently as possible," added Yildiz.

"I cannot say it's not a problem," said Hanci of Istanbul's Water and Sewerage Administration, "We are trying to do our best until the rains come."  

Rain cannot come soon enough for Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu, whose reelection next year may depend on how he manages the delicate issue of water cuts. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already declared he's determined that his party will regain control of Turkey's largest city.

By:Dorian Jones

Source : https://www.rfi.fr/en/podcasts/international-report/20230826-istanbul-facing-drastic-water-shortages-brought-on-by-climate-change

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