2017 was the driest year for Turkey in more than four decades, and drought remains a major threat for the country. Authorities are counting on precipitation in February and the following months to boost water levels in dams as the country has experienced a relative warm spell.
Temperatures beyond seasonal norms hit water levels, but there is no genuine risk according to authorities as levels are sufficient to meet the current demand. In Istanbul, the country's most populated city, water levels in dams is on average 65.9 percent. A drought will be of particular concern for the southeast, which has an arid climate and has had little precipitation up until January. In the west, a dam in Balıkesir province had a decline in water levels to 37 percent.
Speaking to Habertürk daily, meteorologist Orhan Şen said Turkey is in the middle of an obvious drought, but precipitation predicted for February and March would help water levels recover the losses.
Turkey has experienced severe consequences of global warming in recent years, affecting ecological patterns from seasonal heat levels to rainfall. According to the prediction of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the mean yearly temperature in Turkey is to rise 2.5 degrees Celsius to 4 degrees Celsius. It is also predicted that Turkey will probably face severe drought in general while the northern regions will struggle with heavy floods.
Although officials acknowledge the concerns, they have ruled out a widespread drought. Ahmet Ersin Gökçe, director of a water authority in Şanlıurfa, an agriculture hub in southeastern Turkey, said that the region goes through dry periods but they have enough water reserves, pointing to Atatürk Dam, a main water source for the region that currently holds about 41 billion cubic meters of water.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Gökçe said the dam is key for the irrigation of the vast agricultural land in the southeast.
"We predict 4 billion cubic meters of water use next year and our reserves are sufficient for another year. Still, we advise farmers to act cautiously and use water-saving methods in irrigation," he said.
Çaygören, a dam in Balıkesir that contributes to irrigation of thousands of acres of land, also saw a drop in water levels, but the local authority overseeing the dam said in a statement that the levels are predicted to rise again in the upcoming irrigation season with a forecast of precipitation from February to May.