The prolonged lack of rainfall has reduced water in the dams supplying Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city. It has reached the lowest level in 15 years, raising fears of a persistent drought.
The seas surrounding Istanbul may be the only water the city will see in the near future, as water levels in the dams supplying the metropolis's water supply are now critically low. Rainfall is far less than in previous years, not to mention snowfall that is missing. This rainfall shortage is causing dams problems, whose average water levels have fallen to 19.79% since Monday, the lowest in 15 years.
Data from the Istanbul Water and Sanitation Administration (ISKI) show that water levels vary below 30%. The Sazludere Dam has the lowest level at 5.33%, while Darlak Dam has the highest level of 46.46%. Others average between 21% and 29%.
The dams and reservoirs serving the water needs of the 16 million cities can accumulate 868.6 million cubic meters. Currently, accumulated water is around 166 million cubic meters. It is dangerous for the city where an average of 2.8 million cubic meters of water daily is consumed in winter.
Water scarcity forces the distribution of water from distant sources. In 2020, the city's water supply largely relied on Yesilchai and Melen, two rivers east of Istanbul. Although authorities reassure that the situation is still under control, data from recent years show an inevitable crisis. For example, on 4 January 2020 the dams' water level was 39.02%, and on the same date in 2019 - 83.25%.
The lack of rainfall causing water problems for Istanbul is mainly due to climate change, which affected inland water basins across the country last year.
Istanbul, a financial and shopping center that has been an attracting center for millions throughout its history, has an eternal trend of population growth.
Professor Mikdat Kadioglu, a meteorology expert from the Technical University of Istanbul (ITÜ), said the climate had changed dramatically in the past, and temperature changes would worsen in the future, but Istanbul was facing a chronic problem of water scarcity.
Istanbul's Mayor, Ékrem Imamoglu, said last month that the city was not currently facing a water shortage problem but warned of the coming months. "The risk is here. We have to be careful and save water," he told the media. "Istanbul has gone through the dry 2019 and 2020.
"The European part of the city is now at greater risk of water shortages," the mayor added.
Water savings is at least a temporary solution, but experts say there are huge leaks in the city's water supply at this point.
Almost 22.3% of the water supplied in Istanbul from various sources does not even reach the grid due to leaks, said Medet Gyuni, secretary of the board of the Istanbul branch of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers.
In addition to Istanbul and other cities, there has been a decrease in the water level in the dams, from Edirne to Izmir. The government has drawn up an action plan that is expected to come into force this year. The plan aims to introduce measures to increase water efficiency. About 150 dams are projected to be built in the coming years.
Municipalities will receive support in their infrastructure projects to replace old water pipes that cause water loss.