Turkey leads efforts for better water conservation in the Middle East

Parched land is replacing fertile land in some places while others are exposed to relentless torrential rains. As climate change wreaks havoc in Turkey and the Middle East, better use of limited water resources is in the spotlight.

Last month, the Turkish Water Institute (SUEN) hosted irrigation experts from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in Şanlıurfa, an agricultural center in southeastern Turkey, for efforts aimed at improving the efficiency and productivity of agricultural water use in the region. A SUEN workshop and study tour brought together local and foreign experts.

During the workshop, a report titled “Improving Agricultural Water Use Efficiency and Productivity in the Middle East: Pressures, Status, Impacts and Responses” was presented and discussed. Representatives of participating countries also provided information on the irrigation methods and practices they use. Subsequently, field visits were made to the irrigation facilities to observe the practices in place. As part of these visits, the Atatürk Dam and irrigation areas in the region were visited.

The workshop and the field visit are part of the project “Knowledge Dissemination to Improve Agricultural Water Use Efficiency”, coordinated and implemented by SUEN as the coordinating office. The results of the study were shared with national experts during the workshop.

Experts and journalists pose together next to the Ataturk Dam, in Şanlıurfa, southeastern Turkey, May 25, 2022. (Courtesy TURKISH WATER INSTITUTE)

The report covered issues such as water scarcity, the challenges it poses to agriculture, improving water use efficiency and therefore increasing water efficiency and agricultural production in the region. It was prepared under the aegis of Blue Peace in the Middle East. Blue Peace in the Middle East is a network that aims to establish institutional cooperation for the sustainable management of water resources by ensuring water cooperation in the Middle East. It is made up of the main organizations of the countries of the region and aims to transform water, which can be a potential source of conflict in the region in the long term, into a tool for peace by taking concrete measures and establishing cooperation.

The Blue Peace Coordination Office in the Middle East has been managed by SUEN since 2019, and it carries out the agricultural water efficiency project with the countries of the region. As a project partner, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) co-finances the project with SUEN.

With the constant increase in population, economic growth and changes in our lifestyles, the demand for water is increasing day by day. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if the world continues on this path, water demand for irrigation could double by 2050.

Water resources, of vital importance to the Middle East, are rapidly diminishing as a result of global warming. The report points out that the efficient use of water is of great importance for many sectors, especially agriculture, because around 80% of water is consumed in traditional irrigation methods in agriculture.

The report also draws attention to the impact of climate change. Climate change is considered to be the main cause of changing temperatures and precipitation patterns and increased severity and frequency of droughts, leading to severe damage in many sectors, especially agriculture. Water scarcity is the greatest threat to agriculture. Some losses are still recoverable, so “real” water savings are still possible, according to the report.

the Turkish Water Institute, affiliated to the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, contributing to the development of national and international water policies; it is a think tank that conducts scientific research and operates for capacity building and the development of strategic ideas.

For its part, Turkey is striving to limit water losses as much as possible and to diversify its crops in the face of climate change which threatens its resources.

Although it experiences different climates, Turkey is mostly a semi-arid country, risky in the era of climate change for the agricultural lands concentrated in Anatolia which are far from the mild climate of the western regions of the country. It juggles its response to weather problems compounded by the climate crisis, from flooding in coastal areas to aggressive droughts in inland regions. The country launched a Water Council in October 2021, the first comprehensive effort to address water issues. It brought together all the people concerned by the issue, from farmers to industrialists. Water loss in major cities was among the issues highlighted during the debate in council and beyond.

Sabah’s daily newsletter

Keep up to date with what is happening in Turkey, in its region and in the world.

You can unsubscribe anytime. By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.