Turkey is Faced with the Crisis of Having Per Capita Water Resources Decline by One-Third by Mid-Century

RATING B (Moderately Effective)

Water is a precious resource that 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 threefold, water use increased sixfold during the same period. Climate change has also been putting pressure on water resources. The water demand is likely to increase during the next twenty-five years.

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

Studies indicate that Turkey has some of the highest levels of water security threat of the countries in Europe. It is densely populated, and> most areas of the country face high or very high levels of water stress. This problem will likely increase with the rapidly rising population and the potential drying associated with rising temperatures. Estimates of changes in runoff of between -52% and -61% and reductions of surface waters in the Turkish basins of 20%, 35%, and 50% for 2030, 2050, and 2100 have been reported. By 2100 Turkey could experience an expansion of arid areas that could increase water stress around the southern Mediterranean areas.

The likely effects of climate change on the water resources of the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region have been investigated using a high-resolution regional climate model (PRECIS) by comparing precipitation simulations of 2040–2069 and 2070–2099 with 1961–1990. The projected change in internal water resources is assumed to be the same as the projected change in precipitation. Turkey has a large rural population, with 43% of its economically active population, nearly 15 million, working in agriculture. Its precipitation and water resources were projected to suffer a modest decline of 11% by mid-century and 12% by the end of the century. Turkey will face the challenge of having its per capita water resources decrease by nearly one-third by mid-century. Turkey’s agricultural sector will inevitably be forced to become more water efficient. Despite this decline, Turkey will likely remain a major net agricultural exporter due to its large land area and rural population.

The dry seasons are placing more stress on the environment, and as a result, over 70 lakes all over the country have dried up completely in the last 60 years with no hope for recovery. Furthermore, the second largest lake in Turkey as far as the surface area is concerned was a “salt lake” in Central Anatolia which is almost fully dry now.


Since the middle of the last century, Turkey’s water policy has undergone continuous reforms, with significant changes being made, especially in the past three decades. Three mutually reinforcing policy trends can be identified since the early 1980s: decentralization, privatization, and Europeanization. Turkey’s water policy has transformed from an entirely centralized public policy to one with decentralized elements. However, with a still rather weak integration of environmental issues into its water policies and management.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Turkey Country Manager Dr. Semih Ergur.


Climate Scorecard depends on support from people like you.

We are a team of researchers providing information on efforts to reduce global emissions. We help make you better informed and able to advocate for improved climate change efforts. Donations of any amount are welcome.