Environment

Turkey Experiences Intense Drought

Multiple seasons of below-average rainfall have affected the country’s drinking water supplies and groundwater reservoirs.

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As 2021 begins, most of Turkey is experiencing severe drought. Numerous reservoirs around Istanbul—the country’s most populous city (15 million)—have reached their lowest water storage levels in 15 years. Crop production could be threatened if conditions persist.

The dry conditions come after several seasons of low rainfall. In 2019, the summer and autumn months were mostly devoid of rain, and water levels in reservoirs dwindled. Then 2020 was the driest of the past five years, with notably little rainfall in the latter half of the year. Since July 2020, nearly all provinces in Turkey received below-average rainfall nearly every month. From October to December, precipitation across the country was 48 percent lower than the average for 1981-2010.

The map above shows shallow groundwater storage as of January 11, 2021, as measured by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites. The colors depict the wetness percentile, or how the amount of groundwater compares to long-term records (1948-2010). Blue areas have more water than usual, and orange and red areas have less.

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