An ongoing nationwide drought has left water levels in Turkish reservoirs so low that electricity production at hydropower stations may have to be reduced, according to Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. This in turn could force the country to increase imports of electricity from Bulgaria, Georgia and Iran.
“Precipitation levels for the months of March and April were not what we had hoped for. We will see in the upcoming months if levels increase, but if they don’t, I will unfortunately have to say that our electrical output will decrease,” Yildiz told a press conference in Ankara this week.
“In that case, we will import electricity from Iran, Georgia and Bulgaria,” he said, adding, “When it doesn’t rain or snow, we won’t have water, and if there’s no water we are unable to produce the desired amount of electricity.”
The minister was specifically referring to reservoirs in east and southeast regions of Turkey, which is where most of the country’s hydropower facilities are located. The dams in these regions are built on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whose waters Turkey shares with neighboring Syria and Iraq.
High temperatures and a lack of precipitation have been affecting Turkey for months. In January, the country’s largest city, Istanbul, had only about 100 days of water reserves, according to the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies.
Istanbul’s 10 million residents receive water from 10 dams in the Marmara and Black Sea regions, but water levels at all of the dams have decreased to their lowest point in six years, leaving them at only 35 percent capacity. Three of the 10 dams were no longer able to supply any water in January.
By February, Turkish farmers were stepping up pressure on the central government to include drought provisions in crop insurance. Turkish Agricultural Chambers Union (TZOB) President Şemsi Bayraktar said the drought situation was of major concern for agricultural production, and called on the government to help farmers recover from financial losses as a result of the lack of water.
At the same time, Turkish Water Minister Veysel Eroğlu dismissed the need for drastic measures like cloud-seeding as a way to mitigate the drought.