By Mehmet Tomanbay

Source: Arab Studies Quarterly, Spring2000, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p79, 22p

SINCE THE 1970S, BOTH TURKEY and Syria have pursued large-scale irrigation and hydro-energy projects on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and their tributaries. With the commencement of these large-scale projects, water has become a source of tension between the riparian states of the Euphrates-Tigris river basin. The concepts of 'co-operation' and 'conflict' became the basic actors of the international debates on the utilization of the two aforementioned transboundary water resources. The rapid implementation of the Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) accelerated the debates of co-operation and conflict on the issue. As one of the basic users of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers in the near future, Turkey's policy for utilizing the waters of these two rivers has become a major concern, especially for neighboring countries; it has also attracted attention of the academic, political and media circles in regard to the inter-state relations in the Middle East as well as in the world.

On the other hand, insufficient water availability, rapid population growth, and industrialization coupled with pollution have brought to the forefront the problem of water scarcity in the Middle East. Books, innumerable articles and reports have been written on this issue. In many studies Turkey with its snowy mountains and climate characterized by relatively abundant precipitation is perceived as holding the key to the solution for the Middle East water shortages. Many observers look at the Euphrates as a regional water resource capable of overcoming water shortages in other Middle Eastern countries. As a result of this false perception, it is difficult to assess realistically Turkey's national policy for the utilization the waters of the Euphrates-Tigris basin in international meetings.

A realistic national policy for water usage can only be formed based on accurate inventories of the water and land resources and the need for those resources. Therefore, updated and dependable data on water and land resources in Turkey will help us to understand and to assess realistically Turkey's national policy for the utilization of the waters of the Euphrates-Tigris basin.

Evaluation of the main reasons for the Turkish Government's design and implementation Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) will give us the opportunity to survey the water and land inventory of the region as a whole, as well as Turkey in particular.

In this essay I will first concentrate on these factors, then focus on Turkey's national policy for utilizing the waters of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin. In this way, it will be possible to understand Turkey's approach to the utilization of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.


The Southeast Anatolia Project is the largest and the most comprehensive regional development project ever implemented in Turkey. There are two reasons for Turkish Government's design and implementation of such a large project in the Southeast Anatolia. First, Turkey's major water and land resources are located in Southeast Anatolia, and Turkey aims to use these resources optimally for the local region as well as for Turkey as a whole. Second, Southeast Anatolia is the most backward region of Turkey. There are huge economic and social differences between this region and the rest of Turkey. For these crucial reasons, the Southeast Anatolia Project is being developed on the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers and their tributaries, which originate in Turkey.

To elaborate further on these resources, Turkey's water potential and the economic situation of the Southeast Anatolia should be assessed.


In the water related theoretical literature there are commonly accepted limits for water richness and water shortages, which were designated by hydrologists and experts.(n1) If we assess Turkey's water resources according to these limits it appears to be unrealistic to classify Turkey as a water-rich country.

According to experts, to be rich in water resources a country must have more than 10,000 m[sup 3] per capita per year. Water supplies between 1,000-2,000 m[sup 3] per person/year make a country water-stressed. When the figure drops below 1,000 cubic meters nations are considered water-scarce. When a country becomes waterscarce it means that the country experiences a severe constraint on food production, economic development, and production of natural systems.

All of the water resources of Turkey are continuously observed and assessed by a large web of hydrological and meteorological gauging stations around the country. Therefore the data used in this study is fairly accurate and up to-date.

The prevailing weather in Turkey varies from region to region. Rainy weather for four seasons is only prevalent in the northern part of the country. In the Mediterranean region the weather is mild and rainy in the winter and dry and very hot in the summer. In the mid-section of Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, which constitutes a large portion of Turkey, the weather is usually drier than in other regions. Prevailing weather in this region is very hot and dry in the summer, with relatively less precipitation in the winter. For instance, in Ankara there is a significant water shortage, especially for agricultural activities, during the summer months from April until the first week of October.(n2)

Besides the monthly differences in the amount of precipitation, there are serious inequalities in precipitation from region to region. As an example there was 63.3 mm rain in Himmetdede, Kayseri (an important province in the Middle Anatolia) in 1933, Rize (a province in the North Anatolia) had 4043.3 mm precipitation in 1931. Another important province of Turkey, Urfa, in Southeast Anatolia, receives approximately 3.9 mm rain during the summer months (June, July, August) which is the most important period for agricultural cultivation.(n3) On average, the annual precipitation of Turkey is 643 mm, but the local annual averages change from region to region and decrease to almost 250 mm in some regions and going up to 3000 mm in some other regions.(n4) In short, there are big differences in the average precipitation according to the month and the region of the country. Therefore water shortages are important problems especially for agriculture in the Middle and in Southeast Anatolia, and irrigation becomes an inevitable activity to sustain and to increase productivity in these regions. Moreover, many big cities like Istanbul and Ankara experience severe water shortages during the summer months.

The 643 mm annual precipitation means that the average annual precipitation in Turkey is 501 billion m, 186.05 billion m[sup 3] of this amount ends up as surface runoff, 274 billion m[sup 3] of precipitated water which accounts for 54.6 percent of total precipitation is lost in transpiration and evaporation. Another 69 billion m[sup 3] of precipitated water, which corresponds to approximately 14 percent of total precipitation, feeds the underground water aquifers. Twenty-eight billion m[sup 3] of this amount returns to the surface via springs and joins the rivers. In addition, 7-billion m[sup 3] water comes from neighboring countries. Altogether (158+28+7) Turkey's renewable surface water potential is equal to 193 billion m[sup 3]. Moreover, it is impossible to harness the entire potential of 193 billion m[sup 3] because of technological, topographic, and geologic constraints. Of Turkey's surface-water runoff, an estimated 95 billion m[sup 3]/y cannot be put to beneficial use, but some 98 billion m[sup 3] can in fact be used, 95 billion m[sup 3] of this amount comes from internally originated surface water while 3 billion m[sup 3] comes from transboundary waters which originate in neighboring countries and flow through Turkey. On the other hand, there is 12-billion m[sup 3] additional renewable water, which comes from underground. According to calculations, only 12 billions m[sup 3] of underground water which flows to the sea and to the neighboring countries can be economically tapped. When we take into consideration this amount, Turkey's total renewable water potential becomes equal to 205 billion m[sup 3] (193+12) in a year, and only 110 billion m[sup 3] (98+12) of this amount can be used economically.(n5)

Thus, with a population of 65 million, Turkey has an average annual renewable water potential of 205 billion m[sup 3], or approximately 3150 m[sup 3] per capita per year which is far below the 10.000 m[sup 3] mark necessary to make a country water-rich. If we take into consideration the economically usable water potential of the country (110 billion m[sup 3]) the available per capita water per year goes down further and becomes equal to approximately 1700 m[sup 3] which makes a country water-stressed. Furthermore, rapid population growth, industrialization and rising living standards will decrease the renewable water potential per capita per year to 2500 m[sup 3] by the year 2000, and to 2000 m[sup 3] by 2010. If we look at the economically usable water potential per capita, per year we see a more severe situation whereby the available water goes down to 1580 m[sup 3], or even less by the year 2000.

As can be seen from the data, Turkey's water resources are far from abundant. Turkey has only about a fifth or sixth of the water available in water-rich regions such as North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and even western Europe, see Table 2.

There are 26 hydrologic basins in Turkey, see Table 3. Of these basins, 22 are river basins and the remaining four are enclosed basins that have no flow to the sea. The first two river basins (the Euphrates and the Tigris); contain the largest volume of flow among the rivers of Turkey, 28.5 percent of the nation's total surface flow (17 percent from the Euphrates and 11.5 percent from the Tigris); Dogu Karadeniz (East Black Sea) with 8 percent contribution to total, Dogu Akdeniz (East Mediterranean)with 6 percent contribution to total, and Antalya with 5.9 percent contribution to total.

In the past Turkey built hundreds of dams, hydroelectric power plants and other water related construction to harness water both to produce energy and to irrigate and lands. However, this does not mean that Turkey has fully exploited these resources. Approximately 37 billion m[sup 3] of 110-billion m[sup 3] usable water is actually used. In other words, almost 33 percent of economically usable water is used at present. The remaining 67 percent of economically usable water is what Turkey has not yet exploited owing to financial constraints in allocation. Thus what Turkey fails to use for the time being cannot truly be called excess water.

If Turkey's water resources are assessed according to the above, two inescapable consequences emerge: first, it appears unrealistic to classify Turkey as a water-rich country, second: the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers are the major water resources of Turkey which must be harnessed for the benefit of the region as well as for the entire country.

In spite of its growing need of water, Turkey is still willing to export some of its water to neighboring countries to relieve their shortages. The main water resources that can be used for this purpose are in the southern basins of Turkey. Southern basins of Turkey (East Mediterranean, Antalya, West Mediterranean, Seyhan and Ceyhan) contribute almost 25 percent of Turkey's total renewable water potential. There are several dams in operation on these rivers and several others are under construction, but some of the water of these rivers still flows to the Mediterranean Sea without being used. This water, which flows freely to the sea, can contribute to partially alleviate water shortages of some countries in the Middle East, as well as some parts of Turkey. There are several projects under consideration to utilize the water. One of the best known projects is the Manavgat Water Supply Project. This Project and the others have been devised to alleviate water shortages in some parts of Turkey and the Middle East. During the last week of July 1998 the water of the Mediterranean Rivers started to be transferred to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by big balloons.


Southeast Anatolia is the least developed region in Turkey. There are huge economic and social differences between this region and the rest of Turkey. Some economic and social indicators show the inequalities between the region and the rest of Turkey. The per capita income in the region accounts for 47(n6) percent of the per capita income of Turkey as a whole. In other words, the average per capita income of Turkey is more than twice that of the region's per capita income. The number of hospital beds per 10,000 people is 11.6 for Southeast Anatolia and 21.4 for the rest of Turkey. Manufacturing's share of GAP in the region accounts for about only 1.9 percent of Turkey's total manufacturing production.(n7) These and many other economic and social indicators make it clear that the region desperately needs more investments. Development of this region is key to eliminating economic disparities with other parts of the country. The project on the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers and their tributaries aims to eradicate regional inequality, and promote economic growth and social stability in the region.


The GAP project area lies in southeastern Turkey and covers nine provinces. This region is a part of Upper Mesopotamia, which is the cradle of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization. The total land area of the project corresponds to approximately 10 percent of Turkey's land area. The population in the project area accounts for about 9.5 percent of Turkey's total population. The project envisages the construction of 22 dams, 19 hydroelectric power plants, and 2 irrigation tunnels on the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers and their tributaries. The total estimated cost of the project is $32 billion, $12.6 billion of which was already spent by the end of 1997, i.e., 41.3 percent. The linchpin of the project is the Ataturk Dam and the Sanliurfa Tunnel Systems. Ataturk Dam and the Sanliurfa Tunnels were completed and they are now operational.

After completion of the project, 1.7 million hectares of land will be irrigated and the ratio of irrigated land to the total GAP area will increase from 2.9 percent to 22.8 percent while that for rain-fed agriculture will decrease from 34.3 percent to 7 percent. On the other hand, 27 billion kWh of electricity will be generated annually over an established capacity of 7460 megawatt. The area to be irrigated accounts for 19 percent of all the economically irrigable area in Turkey (8.5 million hectares), and the annual electricity generated will account for 22, percent of the country's economically viable hydroelectric power potential, 118 billion kW.

The completed GAP investments, like the Ataturk and Karakaya Dams, have generated a substantial amount of hydraulic energy since their operation. There is also a significant change in the crop pattern, coupled with a significant increase in agricultural incomes in the irrigated lands. In other words, some of the GAP investments are starting to pay back their costs. This situation created a new motivation for the Turkish government to generate additional financial sources, therefore it seems likely that the project will receive a new boost and will be completed earlier than anticipated.

By 15 June 1998, the Ataturk and Karakaya dams, the most important investments of the GAP, had generated almost 135 billion kWh energy. The energy so far generated by these two dams corresponds to a monetary value of eight billion US dollars. If this amount is put in terms of alternative sources, it corresponds to the importation of 33 million tons of fuel oil or 25.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

In the Euphrates and the Tigris basins together, the area brought under irrigation for the 1998 irrigation season reached 174,080 hectares or almost 10 percent of the projected irrigated area within the scope of GAP (1.7 million hectares). Another 11 percent is now under construction (183,995 hectares).

With irrigation, there is striking change in the crop pattern of the region. Before the irrigation, wheat, barley and lentil were the main crops, now, however, cotton, maize, peanut, sunflower, soybean, bean and vegetables are being produced thereby contributing to agricultural industry. The biggest change is in the amount of land used for cotton. As of the end of 1997, about one-third of the cotton harvest of Turkey was realized in the GAP region. Cotton is grown on 38.664 hectares; part of a total of 60,000 hectares of land thus far brought under irrigation in the Sanliurfa-Harran Plain.(n8) The total value of agricultural production realized in the region is estimated at approximately 120 million US dollars. The value of agricultural production before irrigation was equal to 31.5 million US dollars. This figure, which corresponds to as yet a minor part of the projected irrigation area, gives a general idea of the economic returns to be reaped when the Project is fully completed.

As can be seen, the impact of the Southeast Anatolia Project on the region's economic, social and cultural life as well as Turkey's is enormous. The water of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers has already started to improve the living standards of local citizens by increasing income levels, providing employment and bringing stability to the Region. Using the water of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers has become one of the prerequisites of the Turkish Government to make the Region economically prospered, and socially and politically stable. The contribution of the production of hydroelectric and the economic returns on the irrigated land has spurred of Turkish government to implement the Project as soon as possible.


The environment is an important dimension of the project. The GAP Master Plan states that the irrigation of 1.7 million hectares of agricultural land and the creation of new water reservoirs under the project will considerably alter the water and soil regimes in the region. These changes will affect people as well as regional flora and fauna. Population movements, rapid urbanization and industrialization will bring along new transformations in both rural and urban areas. Changes, which occur in the overall socio-economic structure under the impact of GAP, will manifest themselves in the environment. Thus, the Master Plan stresses that the environmental dimension should be taken as an integral part of GAP activities and that there is a need for a comprehensive approach to this dimension so as to ensure harmony with other measures related to socio-economic development.

Furthermore, during the recent years a new approach has been adopted by the policy makers for Southeast Anatolia Project. Until the last few years the main emphasis of the project was on the planning, construction and implementation of the physical investments such as dams, hydroelectric plants and irrigation systems. The main features of the new approach are sustainability and human development as well as the physical implementation. In other words, a new emphasis was put on the implementation of sustainable human development. As a result of this new approach the social aspect of the GAP beyond the water and land resources development become one of the main concerns of the GAP administration.

The objective of "sustainable human development" which was defined by the GAP administration is: "to take economic growth into the human development perspective and to convert the social transformation, which will cover the whole region, into participatory solutions of ecological, cultural and local nature.(n9)

A symposium on "The Sustainable Development and GAP" was held jointly by the GAP Administration and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in March 1995. Based upon the result of this seminar and the objectives and targets of the GAP Master Plan, the following "sustainability" goals have been adopted for the development process:

1. Increasing investments to the highest achievable level which to accelerate the improvement economic conditions of the region.

2. Enhancing health care and education services so that they reach national levels.

3. Creating new employment opportunities.

4. Improving the quality of life of the cities and improving urban and social infrastructure so as to create healthier urban environments.

5. Completing the rural infrastructure for optimal irrigation development.

6. Increasing the inter- and intra-regional accessibility.

7. Meeting infrastructure needs of existing and new industry.

8. Protecting water, soil, air and the associated ecosystems as a priority consideration.

9. Enhancing community participation in decision making and project implementation.(n10)

As can be seen from the information above, environmental policies also became one of the main concerns of the sustainable economic development. By adopting a sustainable economic development approach, Turkey reveals its intent to protect environment. Up to now several environments related works and activities have been planned and carried out exclusively by the GAP Administration or in co-operation with other organizations. See Tables 5-6. The Ministry of Environment and the GAP Administration signed a protocol laying down the principles of co-operation between the two organizations on the further identification of environmental problems in the region and relevant measures to be taken. The protocol was signed on 21 April 1998.


The Euphrates and the Tigris are the two major and longest rivers in the Middle East. They originate in Turkey and flow down through Turkey, Syria and Iraq to reach the Persian/Arab Gulf. The Euphrates is a 2990 km or 1859 mile long river, 40.8 percent of which flows within Turkish territory, 23.7 percent flows within Syrian territory, and 35.4 percent flows through Iraq. The Tigris is a 1900 km or 1181 mile long river; 27.5 percent of which flows through Turkish land, 2.1 percent flows through Syria and 70.3 percent flows through Iraq. They join to form the Shatt al-Arab about 200 km or 125 miles from the Gulf. They both have several tributaries in Turkey, and during their exotic journey to the Gulf they carry their maximum water potential through Turkish territory.

The average annual runoff of the Euphrates is about 35 billion m[sup 3]. The Turkish contribution to the annual flow is almost 31 billion m[sup 3].(n11) In other words, 89 percent of the Euphrates water generates in Turkey. Syria contributes only 11 percent; Iraq's contribution to the runoff is nil.

The Tigris's average annual runoff is about 49 billion m[sup 3]. Almost 52 percent of the Tigris water generates in Turkey, the remaining 48 percent generates in Iraq.(n12) No water generated in Syria drains into the Tigris.

When we look at the demand side, we see that the demand of Syria and Iraq exceed their contribution to the water of the rivers. Syria wants 32 percent and Iraq wants 65 percent of the Euphrates. Turkey plans to use about 52 percent of the Euphrates to which it contributes 89 percent. On the other hand, Syria and Iraq's demands on the Tigris are 5.4 percent and 92.5 percent respectively. Turkey plans to use 14.1 percent of the Tigris.

The combined demands of the riparian countries thus amount to 148 percent of the total flow capacity of the Euphrates and 111 percent of that of the Tigris. When we look at these figures it is quite difficult to see a realistic approach from Syria and Iraq. The demands of Iraq and Syria tacitly assume that Turkey releases all of the flow of the rivers without utilizing any of it.(n13)

In fact, Turkey is more dependent on the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates than Iraq and Syria. The other two countries can rely on their petroleum for energy production whereas Turkey, as an oil poor country, must rely on its water resources for energy. Likewise Turkey's dependence on these two rivers for irrigation is greater than that of Syria and Iraq. The area of land that Turkey can irrigate by using the waters of the Euphrates is far greater than comparable Syrian land; therefore the proportionate need for water is larger.


Irrigation is the largest water-consuming sector. Therefore it becomes important to identify the quality and the quantity of land to be irrigated. Land has been classified according to 6 land-use capability groups, of which classes 1 through 3 are efficiently irrigable; Class 4 land is of marginal value. Yield can be obtained from class 5 land only with considerable amount of investment. Class 6 lands are those that are impractical for agriculture.(n14)

According to Kolars, the area that can be irrigated from the Euphrates in Syria is officially 640,000 ha, of which merely 307,000 ha, or 48 percent, is designated class 1, class 2 or class 3 land. According to Abduh Qasim, general director of the Public Establishment for utilization of the Euphrates River, 345,000 ha can be irrigated.(n15) The area to be irrigated in the basin of the Khabur River, a major tributary of the Euphrates in the Syrian territory, is 137,000 ha. Thus the total area that can be irrigated in Syria from the Euphrates is 482,900 ha. However, the figures declared by Syria in official meetings are higher than these figures. The data from other sources on this issue is shown in Table 7. Although the data from different sources reveals discrepancies ranging from 320,000 to 800,000 hectares, it is still not comparable with the size of irrigable land of Turkey from Euphrates.

Comparable data from Iraq shows that Iraq has a larger irrigable area than Syria. However, by means of the canals like Thartar Canal which link the Euphrates and the Tigris, Iraq has the option of using the waters of the Tigris for irrigation, which would otherwise flow unused, instead of those of the Euphrates. Consequently, a transfer of water from the Tigris to the Euphrates can alleviate the water shortage of the latter. Furthermore, as is the case with Syria, most of the Iraq's land is low-lying and afflicted by deposits of gypsum and salt. A large portion of Iraqi territory rarely exceeds 300 m elevation; only 15 percent which is as high as 450 m. This topography limits Iraq's ability to impound the waters of the Euphrates behind high dams; consequently, they empty into the Gulf without being put to use.

In the Turkish territory, an area of nearly 2.5 million ha of class 1,2 and 3 land can be efficiently irrigated from the Euphrates and the Tigris within the scope of the Southeast Anatolia Project.(n16) The area Turkey plans to irrigate from the Euphrates and the Tigris within the scope of GAP is 1,693,027 ha.(n17) Thus the GAP schemes will irrigate only 67 percent of good quality land that would benefit from efficient irrigation. If we take into consideration the land which can be irrigated from the Euphrates, the percent goes down to 60. An area of 1,796,568 ha of class 1,2 and 3 land can be efficiently irrigated from the Euphrates, and not from the Tigris, within the scope of GAP. The area Turkey plans to irrigate from the Euphrates within the scope of GAP is 1,091,203 ha.(n18) Given these facts, a comparison of the surface areas to be irrigated by Syria and Turkey from the Euphrates would be useful. The good quality land which, though irrigable from the Euphrates, is not included within the scope of GAP irrigation schemes is 705,365 ha. In Syria, as indicated, the total area irrigable from the Euphrates is 482,000 ha of which a good part is already under irrigation. As it can be seen from these figures, Turkey's claim on water for irrigation is a strong one. Turkey has approximately four times more irrigable land than Syria which can be irrigated from Euphrates. If we take into account the entire basin (the Euphrates and the Tigris) we see that Turkey has almost seven times more irrigable land than Syria does.

Even these very general data provides some bases for rational, reasonable, and optimal use of the Euphrates by the three countries. Syria, for the sake of barren land, which is not irrigable, wants to see the waters of the Euphrates flow through its territory, uselessly. Iraq demands a flow which, for topographical reasons, it would be unable to control, and moreover, wants to have Euphrates waters for areas that can be irrigated by the Tigris.


Although Turkey is not a water rich country, it agrees that the problems of the Euphrates and the Tigris basin are not going to go away. The dependency on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers does not cause Turkey to use them irrationally or unreasonably or at the cost to neighboring countries. Convincing sustainable formulas, which satisfy not only just all three parties today, but also future generations, will have to be found. At this point, I stress that a regional water management regime(n19) can be an important means to reach convincing formulas or agreements on the utilization of the water of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin. In other words, a water management regime which can be identified with the principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures is a necessity for the Euphrates-Tigris Basin, and can act as an intermediary among riparian states, and facilitate co-operation.(n20) A comprehensive water management regime creates a clear legal framework in which the parties to the dispute can identify their joint gains in the utilization of a transboundary watercourse in an equitable manner.

By taking into consideration this approach, I believe that Turkey is eager to find ways of reaching a basis for co-operation with Syria and Iraq, which will result in fair usage of the water of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

In this regard, necessary data pertaining to Turkey's planned water schemes have been conveyed to Syria and Iraq during Joint Technical Committee meetings held among the three countries. This mechanism, which was foreseen as a forum to discuss regional water matters, was set up with the protocol of the Joint Economic Committee meetings, held between Turkey and Iraq in 1980. Syria joined this mechanism in 1983.

Second, Turkey's Three-Staged Plan, demonstrates its intentions for cooperation on the use of transboundary watercourses. Turkey has developed a three-stage plan for optimum, equitable, and reasonable use of the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers. By offering this Plan, Turkey also extends its environmentally acceptable, sustainable approach to the basin-wide-utilization of the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers. The history of the Three-Staged Plan goes back to 1960s. It was formulated by the engineers in the State Hydraulic Works (DSI) of Turkey. Over the past years it has been revised several times and has been improved by experts to conform to the principles designed for transboundary waterways by the International Law Commission of the United Nations. This plan was submitted to the Tripartite Technical Committee meetings among Turkey, Syria and Iraq in 1984. As yet, Syria and Iraq have failed to respond to this plan positively.


Turkey's plan is based on two principles:

1. The Euphrates, the Tigris and the Orontes are transboundary waters which reject the co-sovereignty on the waters as downstream riparians claim. The transboundary character of these rivers has been recognized by the riparian states since the first quarter of this century because no essential navigation concerns exist on these rivers. Recognition is contained in a series of bilateral and multilateral agreements: 1921 Ankara Agreement, 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, 1939 Ankara Agreement, and 1946 Ankara Agreement. Since 1980, the Agreed Minutes of the Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation have accepted that the Tigris and Euphrates are 'regional waters.' Therefore the three countries need to work together on preparing and assessing a common inventory of water and land resources in the basin. The reason for this is that the methods of collecting and interpreting data vary considerably and a unified method will have to be applied when working on a transboundary watercourse.(n21)

2. The second principle is based on the fact that the Euphrates and the Tigris are a single transboundary river system for two reasons:

a. They join at Shatt al-Arab and empty into the Gulf as a single river.

b. In Iraq they are artificially joined through the Tharthar Canal so some of the Iraqi land irrigated from the Euphrates can be irrigated by means of waters from the Tigris.

Consequently the Turkish plan consists of inventorying and evaluating land and water resources in three stages. The stages of the plan are as follows.(n22)

Stage 1. Inventory Studies For Water Resources. These will cover the following activities:

1. Exchange the whole available data (levels and discharges) of the selected gauging stations below (Table 8). Experts from the three countries shall agree upon the nomination of the representative meteorological stations in Euphrates-Tigris Basin and exchange data on them as well as the whole available data concerning evaporation, temperature, rainfall, snowfall (if available) on monthly basis for the representative stations.

2. To check the above-mentioned data.

3. To measure jointly the discharges at the above mentioned stations in different seasons, if necessary.

4. To evaluate and correct the measurements.

5. To exchange and check data about the quality of water (if available) or (such data after having been initiated).

6. To calculate the natural flows at various stations after the estimation of water uses and water losses at various sites.

Stage 2: Inventory Studies for Land Resources. These will cover the following activities:

1. To exchange information concerning soil classification methods and drainage criteria used and practiced in each country.

2. To check the soil conditions for projects, planned, under construction, and in operation.

3. If the studies indicated under Item 2 of this stage could not be carded for reasons acceptable to all sides, soil categories shall than be determined to the extent possible.

4. To study and discuss the crop-pattern determined according to soil classification and drainage conditions for projects, planned, under construction, and in operation.

5. To calculate irrigation and leaching water requirements based on the studies carried out in the above mentioned items for the projects planned, under construction, and in operation.

Stage 3: Evaluation of Water and Land Resources. These will cover the following activities:

1. To discuss and determine irrigation type and system for the planned projects aiming at minimizing water losses and to investigate the possibility of the modernization and rehabilitation of the projects in operation.

2. Based on the project-wise studies under Item 5 of stage 2 to determine the total water consumption of the whole projects in each country including municipal and industrial water supply, evaporation losses from reservoirs and the conveyance losses in irrigation schemes.

3. To create a simulation model which presents a river system schematically to analyze water demand and supply balance, considering water transfer opportunity from Tigris to Euphrates.

4. To discuss the methods and criteria for determining economic viability of the planned projects.


We think that the utilization of the precious water from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers is a major responsibility for the people who use it. It is obvious that the fulfillment of this responsibility requires accurate and dependable data on the water and land resources in the basin. Only with such realistic and dependable data can the water of the Euphrates-Tigris basin be used efficiently, reasonably, and fairly.

The most important feature of the Three-Staged Plan is its aim to create a common base for acquiring realistic and dependable data. As it can be seen above, the Plan contains guidelines and prescriptions to be followed by the three riparian states in order to reach a common base for the fair use of the water of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin. Moreover, the Plan emphasizes the importance of using advanced technologies in order to save water. These advanced technologies are considered to be essential for solving the water scarcity problem. The Plan also introduces impartial scientific methods to find solutions that take into account the water requirements of all the riparian countries. Therefore, the Three-Staged Plan may initiate the preliminary stages of the regional water management regime, which was mentioned above. Hopefully all three countries will find it much easier to cooperate on issues concerning the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers in the framework of this regional water management regime.


(n1.) Serageldin, Ismail. 1995, Toward Sustainable Management of Water Resources, The World Bank; Malin Falkenmark in Sandra Postel. 1997, Last Oasis, W.W. Norton and Company, New York; Naff, Thomas. 1993, "Water: That Peculiar Substance", Research and Exploration. Water Issue, 6-17.

(n2.) C.W. Thorntwaite, J.R. Mather and D.B. Carter. 1958, Three Water Balance Maps of Southwest Asia, Laboratory of Climatology, Centerton, N.J.

(n3.) State Hydraulic Works. Statistical Bulletin With Maps, 1997, Ankara, p. 8.

(n4.) Pasin Suat and Dogan Altinbilek. 1998, Hydroelectric Energy Potential of Turkey and Current Situation, State Hydraulic Works, Ankara, p. 2.

(n5.) Ibid, p. 3.

(n6.) Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, Southeastern Anatolia Project Regional Development Administration. 1996, South-eastern Anatolia project (GAP) :An Innovative Approach to Integrated Sustainable Regional Development, Ankara.

(n7.) Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, State Planning Organization. 1990, GAP: The Southeastern Anatolia Project Master Plan Study Final Master Plan Report, Executive Summary, (Second Edition), Ankara, p: 1, Table: 1.

(n8.) 66,360 people live in 104 villages which are located on 60,000 hectares of land brought under irrigation.

(n9.) Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, GAP Regional Development Administration. 1997, GAP Industrialisation Strategy, Ankara.

(n10.) Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, GAP Regional Development Administration. 1996, South-eastern Anatolia project (GAP) An Innovative approach to Integrated Sustainable Regional Development, Ankara.

(n11.) Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 1995, Water Issues Between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, Ankara, p.7, Table 2.

(n12.) Ibid, p:9, Table 3.

(n13.) Center for Strategic Research. 1996, Facts About Euphrates-Tigris Basin, Ankara, p.7.

(n14.) Kolars, John F. and William A Mitchell. 1991, The Euphrates River and the Southeast Anatolia Development Project. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press.

(n15.) Ibid, p. 152.

(n16.) Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, State Planning Organization. 1989, GAP: Southeastern Anatolia Project Master Plan Study, Final Master Plan Report, Vol. 4; Table D.2-D.5.

(n17.) Republic of Turkey, GAP Regional Development Administration. 1997, Southeastern Anatolia Project, Ankara, p. 10.

(n18.) Tomanbay, Mehmet. 1993, "Sharing the Euphrates-Tigris", Research and Exploration Water Issue, (Special Issue), no.9, November, pp.53-61.

(n19.) For a comprehensive approach to building a regional water management regime see: Kibaroglu, Aysegul. 1998, International Regimes for Effective and Equitable Management and Use of Water Resources: Implications for the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin, A dissertation submitted to the Department of International Relations of Bilkent University for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

(n20.) Kibaroglu, Aysegul. 1998, "Designing Institutions for Equitable Allocation of Transboundary Water Resources: The Euphrates-Tigris River Basin," Bi-National Conference on Cooperation and Conflict in the Middle East With Special Reference to Water, 20-21 April 1998, Bilkent University, Ankara, p. 12.

(n21.) Center for Strategic Research. 1996, p.22.

(n22.) Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 1995, Water Issues Between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, Ankara, p.35-38.


Legend for Chart:
A - Source
B - Precipitation (mm/m[sup 2])
C - Average Annual Precipitation (Billion m[sup 3]/y)
D - Flow (Billion m[sup 3]/y)
E - Economically Consumable (Billion m[sup 3]/y)
                      B       C       D       E
Domestic             643     501     186.     95
Off Country                            7       3
Total                                193      98
Underground                                   12
General Total                                110
Source: Suat Pasin and Dogan Altinbilek, 1998, Turkey's
Hydroelectric Water Potential and Current Situation. Ankara.


Legend for Chart:
A - Region
B - Annual internal renewable water resources Total (thousands
    of cubic meters)
C - Annual internal renewable water resources Per capita
    (thousands of cubic meters)
D - Percentage of population living in countries with scarce
    annual per capita resources Less than 1000 cubic meters
E - Percentage of population living in countries with scarce
    annual per capita resources Between 1000 and 2000
    cubic meters
      A                  B        C       D              E
Sub-Saharan Africa      3.8      7.1     8.0           16.0
East Asia and the       9.3      5.3     less than      6.0
Pacific                                  1.0
South Asia              4.9      4.2     0.0            0.0
Eastern Europe          4.7     11.4     3.0           19.0
and former USSR
Other Europe            2.0      4.6     6.0           15.0
Middle East and         0.3      1.0     53.0          18.0
North Africa
Latin America and      10.6     23.9     less than      4.0
the Caribbean                            1.0
Canada and the          5.4     19.4     0.0            0.0
United States
World                  40.9      7.7     4.0            8.0
Source: World Bank, 1992. World Development Report 1992:
Development and the Environment, New York: Oxford
University Press.


Legend for Chart:
B - Average Annual Flow (Billion m[sup 3])
C - Contribution to Total %
       A                    B           C
Firat (Euphrates)         31.61       17.0
Dicle (Tigris)            21.33       11.5
Dogu Karadeniz            14.90        8.0
Dogu Akdeniz              11.07        6.0
Antalya                   11.06        5.9
Bati Karadeniz             9.93        5.3
Bati Akdeniz               8.93        4.8
Marmara                    8.33        4.5
Seyhan                     8.01        4.3
Ceyhan                     7.18        3.9
Kizilirmak                 6.48        3.5
Sakarya                    6.40        3.4
Coruh                      6.30        3.4
Yesilirmak                 5.80        3.1
Susurluk                   5.43        2.9
Aras                       4.63        2.5
Konya                      4.52        2.4
Buyuk Menderes             3.03        1.6
Vangolu                    2.39        1.3
Kuzey Ege                  2.09        1.1
Gediz                      1.95        1.1
Meric                      1.33        0.7
Kucuk Menderes             1.19        0.6
Asi                        1.17        0.6
Burdur Goller              0.50        0.3
Akarcay                    0.49        0.3
TOTAL                    186.05      100.00
Source: State Hydraulic Works, 1998, Turkey's Hydroelectric
Energy Potential and Current Situation. Ankara.


Legend for Chart:
A - Indicator
B - Prior to irrigation
C - After irrigation
       A                   B                    C
Agricultural Income    31.5 million US $    120.5 million US $
Agricultural           600 $/ha             1619 $/ha
Value Added
Source: Republic of Turkey, GAP Regional Development
Administration, 1998. Southeastern Anatolia Project: Latest
State As Of April 1998, Ankara.


Legend for Chart:
A         B
          C                                    D
1992    Environmental Study of Diyarbakir Area
        1st Stage completed               GAP Administration
        Dicle University
1992    Project Package for Urgent Infrastructure Works
        Ongoing                           GAP Administration
        Related Governorates and Municipalities
1993    Works for the Improvement of Urban infrastructure
        Ongoing                           GAP Administration
        GAP Administration and Related Municipalities
1993    Eastern Anatolia Water Basin Rehabilitation Project
        Ministry of Forestry Ministry of Agriculture
1993    Development Plans
        Completed                         GAP Administration
        GAP Transportation and' Infrastruct. Consult. Services
1994    Environmental Impact Assessment for a
        Pilot Irrigation Area in Harran Plain
        Completed                         GAP Administration
        Halcrow/Dolsar/RWC Joint Venture
1996    Development Plan for the Sub-Region of Ataturk Dam Lake
        1st stage has been completed      GAP Administration
        Delcan International Corporation
1997    Protection of Ataturk Dam Lake as a Drinking
        Water reservoir
        Ongoing                           Ministry of Environment
        ALTER Engineering and Consulting Ltd.
1997    Planning and Implement. for the Resettlement,
        Employment and Economic Investments for
        People Affected by Birecik Dam
        Ongoing                           GAP Administration
        UNDP/FAO Sociology Association, Turkey.
1998    Environmental/Ecological Changes in the GAP Region. Their
        Public Health Effects, and Malaria Eradication in Turkey
        Ongoing                           GAP Administration
        Ministry of Health GAP International Research Consortium
Source: "GAP Related Projects on Environment", GAP: Periodical
of GAP Administration, No: 10, Spring, 1998, p. 41.


Legend for Chart:
 A           B
    C                              D
1998      GAP Urban Planning and Sanitation Project
    Bidding is about         GAP Administration
    to be completed
          Establishment of a Multi-Purpose Arboretum
          in the GAP Region
    Project Design           GAP Administration
          Possibilities of Utilizing Solar Energy in
          the GAP Region
    Project Design           GAP Administration
          Studies on the Present and Prospective
          Climatic Features of the GAP Region
    Project Deign            GAP Administration
          Re-use of Urban Wastewater in Small Settlements
    Project design           GAP Administration
          Expansion of Village Drinking Water Facilities
          in the GAP Region
                             GAP Administration GDRS
    General Directorate of Rural Services (GDRS)
          Disinfecting of Drinking Water in the GAP Region
    Project Design           GAP Administration
          GAP Solid Waste Management
    Project Design           GAP Administration
          Eco/City Planning Approach for Adiyaman and
          Local Asenda 21
    Out for bidding          GAP Administration
          Environmental Impact Assessment in
          Organized Industrial Zones
    Project Design           GAP Administration
Source: "GAP Related Projects on Environment", GAP: Periodical
of GAP Administration, No: 10, Spring, 1998, p. 41.


Legend for Chart:
    A                 B                      C
Official            773,000              1,952,000
Kolars              375,000              1,294,000
                    397,000              1,550,000
USAID Report        320,000
Anderson            200,000-500,000
Beaumont            400,000-800,000
Source: Bilen, Ozden, 1997, Turkey and Water Issues in the
Middle East, GAP Regional Development Administration, Ankara.


Legend for Chart:
A - Countries
B - on Euphrates
C - on Tigris
   A             B              C
Turkey        Belkizkoy       Cizre
Syria         Kadahiya
              Abu Kemal
Iraq          Husabia         Fishkhabour
              Nasiriya        Mosul, Kut

Mehmet Tomanbey is a professor of economics at Gazi University, Ankara. During the 1999-2000 academic year he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.