As in many countries, the structural framework of water resources development in Turkey has been gradually formed in line with the overall objectives of the country. Following the limited studies for development of water and soil resources in some regions of the country in 1930s, technical and scientific approaches and basin-wide studies have been commenced at late 1940s and accelerated with the establishment of relevant institutes.

The country is divided into 26 main hydrological basins and basin-wide master plans have been prepared. Mostly leading a demand-oriented approach, water-related projects are mainly developed for hydropower generation, irrigation, municipal water supply and flood protection.

There is a growing awareness that water resources development as well as all other types of development efforts must be sustainable. Sustainable development and management of water resources cannot be accomplished without a sound assessment of water resources, which can be described as the determination of the sources, extent, dependability, and quality of water resources, on which is based an evaluation of the possibilities for their utilisation and control. Water  resources  assessment  (WRA) is of critical importance for sustainability because of the predictable impacts of expanding population, increasing pollution and the heightened severity of extreme water-related events such as droughts and floods.

Sustainable use of water resources requires maintaining the integrity of the hydrologic whole. It is thus evident that isolated treatment of any component of the water resource system results in sub-optimal, if not unsatisfactory, solutions. For this reason, an integrated approach is inevitable for the rational management of water resources. In Turkey there is a great deal of effort in adopting the exercising an integrated approach to water resources management.

The major systematic aspect of water-related activities in Turkey is central planning. At national level five-year development plans are main instrument which aim at ensuring the optimum distribution of all kind of resources among various sectors of the economy. The link between planning in relevant sectors is the main concern. In order to guide planning at the national level and facilitate rational decision making in this respect, a special emphasis is given to develop an overall strategy based on inventory of natural resources including water resources.

On the basis of national objectives stipulated in the last five-year development plan of 1996-2000, the six most relevant social and economic objectives, which may be affected by water resources development are as follows:

            - sustainable economic development and industrialization

            - increase in overall welfare level

            - improvement in distribution of income

            - reduction in unemployment

            - improvement in education and technology

            - protection and improvement of the environment

Although it is not defined as a single sector in the development plans, the water sector which is distributed to the other major sectors is one of the largest sector in public investments. The size and capital intensive characteristics of water resources development projects, especially in the case of financial constrains, emphasize the importance of water sector in the national economy.


The climate of Turkey is semi-arid with extremities in temperature. Climate and precipitation figures exhibit great variance throughout the country: in the higher interior Anatolian Plateau, winters are cold with late springs, while the surrounding coastal fringes enjoy the very mild-featured Mediterranean climate. Average annual precipitation is 643 mm, ranging from 250 mm in the southeastern part of the country, to over 3000 mm in the northeastern Black Sea coastal area. This average annual precipitation figure for Turkey corresponds to an average of 501 billion m3 of water per year. Approximately 70% of total precipitation falls from October to April, and there is little effective rainfall during summer months. The elements of water budget of Turkey are illustrated in Figure 1.

Of 501 billion m3 of annual precipitation, 274 billion m3 is assumed to evaporate from surface and transpire through plants. 69 billion m3 of precipitation directly recharges the aquifers, whereas 158 billion m3 forms the precipitation runoff. There is a continuous interaction  between surface runoff and groundwater, but it is estimated  that a net 28 billion m3 of groundwater feeds the rivers. So, average annual surface water potential is 186 billion m3, with the surface runoff of 7 billion m3 coming from neighboring countries, total surface runoff within the country reaches 193 billion m3. However, not all of the renewable water resources can be utilized because of economic and technical reasons. Exploitable portions of surface runoff, inflow from bordering countries, and groundwater are 95, 3, and 12 billion m3, respectively. Thus, the total of exploitable water resources amount to 110 billion m3.

Optimal planning and rational management of water resources calls, first of all, for adequate and reliable data concerning, among others, quantity and quality of water depending on time and space as well as other  meteorological variables that are of significant impact on both water supply and demand. In parallel with the effectual and practical procedures of water resource development projects and operation of facilities built in this respect, DSI carries out, and responsible for, the tasks associated with the observation and measurement of wide range of hydrometeorological and hydrological variables. These data observed, measured and processed by DSI include, primarily, water levels of lakes and ground-water, stream-flow rates, sediment loads and water quality in rivers as well as such meteorological variables as precipitation, temperature, evaporation and humidity.

State Meteorological Organisation (DMI) is the main institution responsible for establishment and operation of meteorology gauging stations for all around the country. DSI has contributed considerably to the establishment, operation and expansion of “Hydro-meteorological Observation Network of Turkey”, and is currently operating 1227 stream, 181 snow gauges  and 1080 water quality monitoring stations located throughout Turkey, and about 400 meteorological stations at the project level. DSI works heavily to cope with the vast amount of data required to implement the ever-increasing number of water resources development projects in accordance with the rapid economic development of Turkey.

Water Budget of Turkey



The basic legislation in water sector is the Turkish Constitution which states that water resources are natural wealth of the country, and under the authority of the State, to be used for the benefit of public. In this direction, the Turkish Civil Code covers water issues in two categories as common waters and private waters. Except some privately owned small springs, the development of water resources, including groundwater, are in general under the responsibility of the State. Nevertheless, utilization of groundwater resources is regulated by a specific law, which licenses the user upon request, within the limits of safe yield of relevant aquifer. Groundwater use rights can neither be transferred nor sold.

A number of governmental and non-governmental organisations have direct and indirect  interest in the development and conservation of  water resources in Turkey. Institutional framework has three levels; namely,  decision making,  executive and users level.  In  decision making  level, prime ministry, state planning organisation  and ministries take place. Governmental organisations under the ministries are at the executive level. There are both governmental and non-governmental organisations at the water users level for the operation and maintenance of the projects. The four main organisations responsible for development of water resources are General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSI), General Directorate of Rural Services (GDRS), General Directorate of Bank of Provinces (Iller Bank), and General Directorate of  Electric Power Resources Survey and Development Administration (EIE).

DSI, under the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, is the major organisation responsible for the development and management of water resources.  DSI's main responsibilities cover the issues of observation, field investigation, master-plan, pre-feasibility, feasibility, design, construction and management for irrigation, hydraulic energy generation, domestic water supply (for the cities with the population more than 100 000), flood control.  Development, management and conservation of ground-water resources are also exclusively under the responsibility of DSI.

GDRS is administered under the Prime Ministry and responsible for construction of rural roads, communal buildings in rural areas, small reservoirs and small-scale irrigation schemes and for supplying drinking water to rural communities.

Iller Bank’s responsibilities include developing urban plans, supplying municipal water, constructing sewerage systems and treatment plants, and providing loans to municipalities for the  financing of such projects.

EIE is responsible for surveys on electric power and for rational use and conservation of it. EIE works in close coordination with DSI in collecting hydrometric data and development of hydro-power.

The Ministry of Environment is responsible, among other things, for setting policies, principles and rules, inspecting activities, coordinating studies, and enhancing public awareness on environmental aspects of  water resources.

Although all the agencies and public institutions defined above are involved in some aspects of the water resources, DSI is the primary institution authorised to plan and manage all aspects and issues of water resources. Thus, the following paragraphs  reflect exclusively the views of DSI.


Water Resources Development

With the projects developed primarily by DSI and other institutions engaged in the water resources development, actual water consumption in Turkey as of 1999 reached 38.9 billion m3, which corresponds to only 35% economically exploitable water resources. Actual and projected water consumption figures in Turkey between 1990 and 2030 are given in Table 1. As seen in the table, most of the water is consumed through irrigation, which is not only the largest component of water consumption in Turkey but also the greatest consumer of funds allocated for water resources projects.

In parallel with rapid economic development and industrialization, a considerable rise is observed in the use of electricity. Use of electrical energy rose from 23 275 GWh in 1980 to 111 022 GWh in 1998, indicating an increase of 477% in 18 years as shown in Table 2. Despite this increase, per capita electricity consumption is 1700 kWh, which is far less than the average consumption of 5000 kWh for the developed countries. On the other hand, it is seen that the share of hydroelectric energy in the total energy projects fell from 49% in 1980 down to 38% in 1998.

Table1. Development of water consumption in Turkey…. (*) of 110 billion m3







million m3


million m3


Million m3


million m3



30 600


22 016


5 141


3 443



38 900


29 200


5 700


4 000



42 000


31 500


6 400


4 100



110 000


71 500


25 300


13 200


Table 2. Electric power generation in Turkey











11 927


11 348


23 275


22 174


12 045


34 219


34 395


23 148


57 543


50 706


35 541


86 247


68 793


42 229


111 022

Although Turkey is not affluent in terms of hydroelectric potential, it is ranked in the first quartile within the European countries. In terms of developing water resources in Turkey, hydraulic energy generation takes an considerable portion. So far in Turkey, for the purpose of hydro-electric energy generation, 485 HPP's (Hydro-Electric Power Plants) have been developed at the various levels. As of the beginning of 2000, 114 HPP's have been put into the operation, 37 HPP's are under construction, and the other 334 HPP's are considered at the various project stages. 

According to studies made in the early 90s, exploitable hydroelectric energy of Turkey has been found to be 123 040 GWh/year. As of 1998 hydroelectric energy generation was 42 229 GWh/year. This figure indicates that so far only 34% of the exploitable hydroelectric energy has been developed. Trends in demand for electric power suggests that an energy shortage is imminent. For this reason, it is considered that hydroelectric energy should be given priority due to the fact that it poses much less of a threat for the environment compared to other types of energy sources.

In order to overcome the financial problems on investment of hydraulic energy, as of the end of 2000 a total of 12 HPP projects with a production potential 220 million KWh were constructed and taken into operation by private sector under BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer)  model. 8 BOT projects with the total installed capacity of 989 MW are currently  being under construction.17 HPP projects contracts have been signed. Contract negotiations of 19 HPP projects are under way.

On the other hand, there has been an important progress in the studies carried out by DSI with a turn-key model of 100 % foreign credit for the construction of large HPP. With this model within bilateral cooperation protocols made between Turkey and Austria, France, Russian Federation, Switzerland, USA and Canada. By means of 29 hydro-electric energy projects having total installed capacity of 7 502 MW,  24,79 billion KWh energy is planned to be generated.

So far in Turkey by means of the projects developed by DSİ, domestic water of 1.63 billion m3 is being supplied to 12 cities. With the projects under construction, domestic water will be provided to 22 cities. In completion of the projects 1,13 billion m3 water will be provided. Finally at full development domestic water supply will reach to 2,76 billion m3 per year.

Studies for the development of water resources in Turkey began in 1930s. Initiated especially for the development of small-scale irrigation projects, the size and scope of these studies expanded in a relatively short period of time. But, it was not until late 1940s that basin-wide hydrologic assessment and master plan studies were started. Activities in this respect gained a momentum and accelerated with the establishment of the aforementioned institutions. These studies served as a blueprint and constituted a solid foundation at each stage of the basin-wide development efforts throughout Turkey. Master plan and individual studies were followed by intensive design and construction work which has so far contributed to the realization of 204 large and 939 small dams, of which are 600 are constructed by General Directorate of Rural Services (GDRS),  to irrigate 4,5 million ha of land and to generate 42 229 GWh/year of energy. Though the number of projects completed to date is by no means considered negligible, Turkey is only one-third way through in developing its water resources potential.

Qualitative assessment of water resources

As compared to studies carried out for the assessment of the quantity of water resources, qualitative assessment of water resources in Turkey is relatively new. The first prominent governmental action related to the qualitative assessment of water resources is the enactment of “Environmental Law” in 1983. The basic aim of this law is protecting the environment and preventing of pollution by applying the “polluter pays” principle. Thus, the law faces the problems of the environment in their largest dimension. The first article of the law specifies its purpose as being not only the prevention and elimination of pollution but also the preservation and utilization of natural resources in the most appropriate manner.

In accordance with the targets defined in the “Environmental Law,” the “Water Pollution Control Regulation” was prepared and became effective in 1988. In this regulation, two basic approaches to water resources have been adopted. First one of these approaches is the acceptance and treatment of water resources within the framework of an ecosystem and conservation of them in their existing conditions; the second one being the protection and improvement of water quality in accordance with the requirements of the country. Protection of drinking water supply reservoirs through buffer zones and land use restrictions, and control on waste-water discharge practices  are two critical aspects of the regulation.

The concept of environmental impact assessment (EIA) for proposed projects was introduced in the Environmental Law; and accordingly, EIA Regulation was issued in 1993 and revised in 1997. Within the framework of this regulation, storage facilities having more than 15 km2 of reservoir surface area  and more than 100 million m3 of reservoir volume have been subject to full EIA studies. DSI has been carrying out EIA studies for those projects that fall into this category.

DSI started monitoring the quality parameters of water resources in 1979. Since then, the number of stations, where 52 different water quality parameters have been measured, has increased to 1080. However, each station monitors only some selected quality parameters the existence and/or some limit values of which are of critical importance for downstream users and/or for the ecosystem in general.

Despite all these efforts made for the control of water pollution, water quality in Turkey cannot be monitored and managed as desired due to some economic and regulatory problems. Though, some positive results of the above mentioned regulations are readily observed, it will take some time for the regulations and subsequent arrangements to take full effect and to bring forward more concrete results.


Background Information on  the Transfer Applications of  Irrigation Management

In order to overcome the financial problems on O&M of irrigation schemes and hence decreasing the financial burden on the Government's allocations, and improve the system  performances, the transferring of irrigation schemes has played an important role.

In Turkey, like all over the World,  there are two ways to operate the irrigation schemes developed by Government:

  1. Irrigation management by the Government
  2. Irrigation management by local authorities and Water-Users Organizations (WUO's)

In 1993, accelerated transfer program was implemented effectively in the regions that WUG's had been all ready exist and working efficiently.

The contribution of the WUG's studies to adopt of PIM is of course significant but there are other factors as well as WUG's that support transfer activities are:

  1. DSI which is responsible from O&M services of irrigation schemes developed by itself adopt this changes as principle reform.
  2. On the job training program and some incentives for O&M staff have been implemented.
  3. DSI's senior staff at the various level had overseas study tours in Mexico and USA to see PIM activities in those countries.
  4. Those trained DSI's staff who believed the benefit of PIM started the study of informing farmers about the organizing and PIM activities in this field.
  5. To promote the accelerated transfer program, the regions having the first priorities were chosen.

As of 1999, a total of 4.5 million ha (mha) has been equipped with irrigation infrastructure in Turkey. Of this, DSI has developed 2.6 mha, mainly under large schemes, of which is constituting the total amount of 0,44 mha of groundwater irrigation facilities. GDRS, which is responsible for on-farm development and some minor irrigation works, has developed 0,9 mha, and farmers and others have developed  1 mha. As indicated above, all major irrigation systems have been developed by DSI. As of end of 1999, 1,75 mha area which is corresponding to 81% of total irrigated area has been transferred to Water User Groups (WUGs).

Transfer of irrigation systems to users was initiated at a slow pace in the early 1950's and until 1993 each year small schemes were gradually transferred to users with an average annual area of about 2 000 ha. DSI was also encouraging participatory approach through establishing Irrigation Groups (IGs) or Water User Groups (WUGs) with limited responsibility for O&M

Before 1993, DSI focus was on transferring only small and isolated irrigation schemes. This policy on transferring irrigation schemes was guided primarily by the concern that it was difficult and uneconomical for DSI to manage such schemes. However, since 1993, in view of the following reasons, and with persuasion of the World Bank's staff and its cooperation in getting DSI's staff, at various levels, more exposed to accelerated transfer of irrigation systems in Mexico, DSI's policy shifted from transferring only small and isolated schemes to an accelerated approach of transferring large schemes as well as small and isolated schemes. In 1993 and 1994 DSI, with the World Bank's support has sent more than 50 senior officials to USA and particularly to Mexico. These visits had substantial effect on further encouraging DSI's staff to pursue accelerated transfer.

The main underlying reason for accelerating transfer program has been the O&M financial burden for DSI and the Government, which was getting unbearable and unsustainable. The O&M cost recovery (rate of collection of water fees), has been unsatisfactory (about 41%). Considerable increase in the cost of O&M due to the role of unionized labor further aggravated the situation. The present Government's general policy of promoting privatization was also a contributing factor. Positive results from generally satisfactory O&M of transferred schemes was another important contributing factor, which substantially alleviated the concern that the systems will rapidly deteriorate after transfer.

Transfer Forms

1. Full Transfer:

All O&M activities on irrigation projects developed by DSI are taken over by WUO's. The responsibility of O&M was transferred to WUO's with an agreement basis. This agreement was signed  between  WUO and DSİ then it was approved by the Ministry. DSİ keeps on monitoring and evaluating the O&M performance of irrigation schemes

2. Participation Through Joint Management

This type of transfer has been experienced in the irrigation projects developed and operated by DSİ. Limited responsibility of O&M  services are taken over by water users named Water User Groups with an agreement signed between DSİ and WUGs. There is no need to be approved by Ministry

3. Informal Transfer

All O&M activities of irrigation projects developed by GDRS, which are small scale and serve generally one village, are managed by farmers. There is no agreement which is signed between Water Users and GDRS.

Full transfer mentioned above has been taken place on voluntary basis of WUO.

The purposes of PIM has three component, which are briefly explained at the following sub-sections:

a)Participation of Users

For  carrying out O&M services efficiently in economical and technical sense as well as providing water security, participation of users was accepted to be required.

Farmers, accounted for 45% of the employment in the country, don’t have any right and responsibility to join the management of irrigation such as choosing the manager, water charges to be implement, making a decision on system management before the PIM. Water users are now well organized. They establish their own organization and manage themselves. If needed, as WUO  managers, they  can follow  their demand from other institution and of course their demand is not individual but for their irrigation and members of WUO.

b)Self control

This purpose can be stated in two sub titles,

i)              Adequacy and quality of services supplied by WUO

ii)             Control of budget with respect to revenue and expenditures..

Firstly, Chairman and board directors of WUO are in the position of that have to give account to farmers through assembly of WUO and finally, they will give the account in the next board election. For that reason they have to be careful in their activities. That is the real self-control of WUO. In stead of having appointed manager, they have elected manager with IMT. PIM assists to make a progress for democracy at this point of view.    


c) Decreasing of O&M cost

O&M cost of government will decrease naturally with PIM and saved allocation will be used in new investment of irrigation project or others by government.


Turkey, having four seasons in a year, shows considerable differences in climatic conditions in the inland and coastal regions, the precipitation-flow relationship, which changes seasonally also shows considerable differences from year to year and natural water supply falls to minimum levels in summer time when the demands are maximum. Therefore, the water management presents a vital importance for the purpose of meeting water requirement changing with time and place. Furthermore, the periodic droughts exceeding approximately 5 years re-occurring almost every 15  years causes important problems and necessitates the development of the projects for water storage. The limited water of the country is distributed unevenly in time and space. In past  eight years an extreme drought conditions has taken place in Turkey. In this period Turkey has gain a great experience in water management.

Turkey is currently experiencing a tremendous fast growth in the economy and significant migration rural to urban areas, it is necessary to "re-engineer" present system to be more effective and efficient in their  planning and to better handle the operation and maintenance of their facilities to be able to meet the increasing demands for water resources. The solution for these problems and updating of technologies can be found in a comprehensive and centralised information.

Like in other parts of the world, Turkey faces the high population rate problems, which impose a significant pressure on meeting demands by developing new water resources projects. This makes necessary to implement new technologies and management strategies on the issue of water resource management.

Sustainable use of water resources requires maintaining the integrity of the hydrologic whole. It is thus evident that isolated treatment of any component of the water resource system results in sub-optimal, if not unsatisfactory,  solutions. For this reason, an integrated approach is necessary for the rational management of water resources. In Turkey, there is a great deal of effort in adopting and exercising an integrated approach to water resources management.

For these reason either the implementation or O & M of water resources projects shall be gradually transferred from public sector to private in order to improve system performances, rational efficiency and sustain country's economic growth in water and the other sector. 

Unevenly distributed precipitation makes irrigation a must in almost all over the country. Drinking, agricultural and industrial water uses have direct effects on the development of countries and all human activities. Despite today's new technologies, it is not technically and economically feasible to utilise 100 % of total renewable water resources. Irrigation projects approximately with 75 % in water consumption occupy an important role in development process. It is a well-known fact that irrigation water is the most essential input for the incremental increase in agricultural production. It is a complete system for producing food and other substances.

Water resources projects are mainly financed by the public sector. The budget allocated for these projects has always been far from to cover the need. Because of the heavy investment cost of water resources projects it is necessary to move from today's heavy dependence on public financing to private sector.

Insufficient financial sources play an important role for the improvement of irrigation project during the investment, operation and maintenance activities. In this context private sector participation has gained a great importance. After the year of 1993, 1,75 million ha area which is corresponding to 81 % of total surface area operated by DSI has been transferred to the users.

As regards to the transfer of the management functions of the irrigation facilities to the users groups, the following considerations would be helpful to mention herewith:

(a) The main benefit to the State from transfer is to remove the O&M financial burden from DSI and thus from the Government. Transfer of each ha of irrigated land to users substantially reduces the need for the government O&M expenditures and the related cost recovery.

(b) Farmers' feeling a sense of ownership in transferred schemes has resulted in a better protection of the irrigation infrastructure which eventually leads to reduced maintenance and repair requirements.

(c) Water User Organizations (WUO's) have generally demonstrated the ability to operate and maintain the systems satisfactorily through recruiting required staff, buying urgently needed transportation and communication equipment, assessing and collecting water fees, equipping their offices and substantially improving water delivery at cost generally less than that incurred by DSI.

In order to overcome the financial problems on investment of hydraulic energy and hence decreasing the financial responsibility of state budget, provision of technology transfer and on time implementation, the policy of the encouragement of local and foreign private sector has been adopted by Turkish government. In this way within the frame of Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Model and the %100 Foreign Credit Turn-Key Model, that came into force, therefore important improvements in realisation of hydro-electric projects have been obtained by private sector.