Turkey's water minister tries to allay drought concerns

Turkey's water problems are manageable, Minister for Forests and Waterworks Veysel Eroglu said

Turkey's water problems are manageable, Minister for Forests and Waterworks Veysel Eroglu said

ISTANBUL - The Turkish minister for forests and waterworks has tried to soothe fears that Istanbul is facing a drought as the city's water reserves run low.

Last month, Istanbul’s reserves dropped below 20 percent after low rainfall during the winter, increased usage by a ballooning population, pollution and construction. This left Istanbulites fretting about their city’s water supplies, although last weekend parts of the city were knee-deep in water following severe storms.

Speaking on Wednesday, Veysel Eroglu told reporters: "We are constructing the Melen reservoir, which will increase Istanbul’s water capacity from 750 million liters to 1 billion cubic meters. The accessible water in the region is at 3 billion cubic meters, this will be enough for a projected population of 35 million in 2071." The reservoir is due to be completed in December 2016.

He noted that Turkey is no stranger to drought, with 12 years of shortages since 1971 and six years of severe drought.

However, he revealed that, across the country, less than half of the potentially useable water is collected -- 44 billion cubic meters out of a potential 112 billion cubic meters -- with 7 billion cubic meters in water that is drinkable. Water reserves across the country are at 44 percent of capacity, Eroglu said.

The minister added: "We have already applied a plan B, but if necessary we have a plan C and would activate it." He did not elaborate on either plan.

Addressing complaints about the smell and color of Istanbul’s water in recent weeks, Eroglu said the cause had been identified as an algae bloom but there were no health concerns.

Eroglu also touched on plans to build a pipeline to deliver drinking water from Turkey to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and said that in the past 12 years, Turkey had installed the most advanced water systems in the world, building more than 268 hydroelectric plants at a cost of 70 billion Turkish liras.

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