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Water levels in reservoirs supplying İstanbul drop to 15 year-low, raising drought concerns

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The water in reservoirs supplying İstanbul, Turkey’s largest metropolis, has decreased after a prolonged lack of precipitation to the lowest level in the past 15 years, Turkish media reported on Monday.

According to data from the İstanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (İSKİ), the average water levels in reservoirs supplying the city have decreased to 19.79 percent of normal levels.

As the amount of rainfall is nowhere near that of previous years, the city’s 15 million residents, who consume an average of 2.8 million cubic meters of water a day in winter, are now facing a serious risk. Reservoirs that have a capacity of 868.6 million cubic meters (30.67 million cubic feet) of water currently hold around 166 million cubic meters.

This means that if the lack of precipitation persists, the city’s water reservoirs will be able to supply residents for only another two months.

Data from past years indicate an imminent crisis: On Jan. 4, 2020 the water level in the reservoirs was at 39.02 percent, and on the same date in 2019, it was 83.25 percent.

İstanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu said last month the city is not currently facing a water shortage but warned about the coming months. “The risk is here. We have to be careful and save water,” he told reporters at a news conference on Dec. 24. “İstanbul went through a dry 2019 and 2020. In terms of precipitation, we have seen less rain and snow than in previous years. We see the risk of drought in 2021,” he said.

Though alarming, the threat of drought is not exclusive to Istanbul as other cities report decreasing water levels in reservoirs, from Edirne in the northwest to Izmir in the west.

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