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Turkey's Water Future In Europe

From: Global Water Intelligence (March 2008)

F.y.i., in this interview with Global Water Intelligence, the new Turkish water minister Eroglu explains his thinking on how to expand water infrastructure in Turkey, a radically neoliberal approach based on boosting the role of private firms. "Our ministry supports public-private co-operation by all means," Eroglu states...

The new Turkish water minister sees private sector investment as a vital tool in his bid to revolutionize the way his country manages its water resources. GWl's Gokhan Yucel talks exclusively to Veysel Eroglu.

When Prof. Dr. Veysel Eroglu took over as Turkey's new minister for environmental and forestry affairs in August last year, the water supply crisis in Ankara was making international headlines. Drought conditions had led to a decision by local water company ASKI to periodically turn off the public water supply in the city for days at a time, which in turn resulted in several major pipelines bursting when the supply was turned back on again, causing localized flooding. Amongst Turkey's political heavyweights, Eroglu is perhaps the best placed to take on a portfolio which includes responsibility for the country's water resources. He has served both at the local level, as head of the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI), and more recently at the national level, as director-general of the State Hydraulic Works (DSI).

During his eight years at ISKI, he solved Istanbul's long-standing drinking water problem, renewing 97% of the potable water distribution network and building five new water treatment plants. 85% of the sewerage network was also renewed under his directorship, during which time he further improved the outlook for the city's water future by building a series of dams, reservoirs and wastewater treatment plants. With Eroglu in charge, ISKI was transformed from a debt-ridden body into an efficient and profitable organization.

He will now be hoping to work his magic at the national level, and although he is brimming with ideas on how to address the issues at hand, he intends to stick to tried and tested methods as far as formulating his strategy are concerned.

He attributes his past successes to what he terms the "7 Ts principle". These are tahayyul (apprehension), tetkik (investigation), tahkik (analysis), takvim (scheduling), tatbik (implementation), takip (tracking), and tekemmul (perfection). Translating these into a strategy designed to resolve Turkey's most challenging water issues has resulted in a set of key principles which Eroglu developed during his time at DSI.

These include an active commitment to reducing the time it takes to complete the construction phase of key projects; reviewing the way in which projects are prioritised, based on utility maximization; and using available resources in the most efficient way, which includes the priority allocation of funds to unfinished projects with a high level of physical feasibility.

Working with water

Linked to the efficient use of resources is the fact that Turkey only makes use of 4° billion mJ out of a total of II2 billion mJ which could potentially be used as potable water. "Our priority is to preserve our existing water resources," Eroglu told GWI in an exclusive interview. "Because natural resources are limited, we have to use them in the most efficient and sustainable way." Although Turkey is one of the lower ranking countries in terms of renewable water resources per head, many agricultural areas are being irrigated by high-quality water which has been treated at a cost - a situation which is clearly unsustainable in the longer term.

Taking Turkey's rapid development into account, Eroglu is only too aware of the fact that water management in his country faces grave threats from increasing industrial, agricultural and urban pollution. "Sustainable development must be handled within the framework of sustainable environment" is the message that comes across again and again in the minister's message.

Basins as the baseline

While this approach to sustainability naturally involves careful management both on die demand and the supply sides, Eroglu has firm ideas about how to streamline the way in which Turkey manages its water resources in order to achieve sustainability in the medium term.

"One of the main points is the central management of water. Parallel to urbanisation and a rapidly rising population, we are witnessing a concurrent rise in potable and industrial water needs. However, given that our overall water resources remain the same, we have to manage them collectively on the basis of basin planning," Eroglu told us.

He believes that Turkey can learn from integrated water management models such as that used in the Netherlands: "We shall examine successful case studies and devise new management models for our country. A framework water law should be drafted and passed as soon as possible. Water consumption planning should be reinforced and water management should be conducted through a centralised model," he told GWI. "Resource management will now be conducted on the basis of the water basin as a unit."

Framework vs. fragmentation

This approach is very much in the spirit of the EU Water Framework Directive, for which Turkey has already estimated implementation costs - something which puts it far ahead of many western European countries.

Part of the challenge of delivering an effective water management service is the fragmented structure of Turkey's water sector, according to Eroglu. "As far as water management is concerned, we are facing a deadlock due to a lack of coordination among institutions, operators, and regional planners," he said.

This in turn leads to higher service costs, and is driven by the fact that in any given region within the country, four or five different bodies might typically work together to provide water and wastewater services.

In order to address this, Eroglu advocates the implementation of a centralised management model. "We face a situation where water resources are allocated in an inefficient way. We want to oversee the links between the works done by central and local authorities, in order to increase efficiency. Integrated water management requires a centralised model because quantity and quality management are two sides of the same coin. To this end, we have to immediately restructure our water management philosophy," he told us.

Dealing with drought

Eroglu is keen to reduce unaccounted-for water and per capita water consumption in Turkey, but at the same time, he is equally committed to avoiding a repetition of last summer's scenes in Ankara.

Drought is not new to Turkey, but the kind of solution advocated by Eroglu is very much focused on working with the resources he has, rather than looking to "drought-proof' the country's major cities.

In Ankara's case, this means fast tracking water transfer projects in order to ensure security of supply for the future. Once the Kizilirmak water transfer project is completed, Eroglu predicts that Ankara will have no water-related problems until at least 201S. The Gerede transfer system, meanwhile, should ensure sufficient supply for the city until at least 20S0 (see GWI August 2007 pp16-17).

Distant desalination

When addressing the question of long-term water resourcing, Ankara's inland position immediately rules out seawater desalination as an option. Despite the prospects of a desal plant to serve Istanbul, however, Eroglu is keen to play down the role of desalination as a tool in shaping Turkey's near term water future. "Although technological developments have improved desalination techniques, this particular water treatment method is still a very high-cost option for our country. Besides, due to Turkey's geographical conditions, it would be difficult to transport desalinated water to the inner regions," he told us. "There is no doubt that desalination will remain a useful tool in the long run, but I believe that if we plan our future in an effective way, we will not need to consider alternative methods."

Private participation

Despite his cool attitude towards desalination, Eroglu sees the private sector playing a vital part in the delivery of water infrastructure across Turkey. "Our ministry supports public-private co-operation by all means," he states categorically. "With the financial means that "are controlled by the central government, it is impossible to realize the projects at hand in the short run. We will have to attract private investment."

Whether that means constructing irrigation networks fed by dams, or building new wastewater treatment plants to help meet the requirements of the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, the sums involved mean that it is clear that Turkey's water sector desperately needs private sector investment.

"We want to build treatment utilities for every single residential area having a population of more than 2,000 inhabitants," Eroglu states, echoing one of the key requirements of the UWWTD. This task alone will require huge sums of money.

While the construction and upgrading of almost all water and wastewater treatment facilities in Turkey is currently carried out on a design-build-operate (DBO) basis, frequently using a combination of public money and EU pre-accession funds, Eroglu seems happy with the concept of build-operate-transfer (BOT) procurement. "BOT is a developing concept in Turkey," he observes, noting that the government already has experience of this procurement method in the hydro-electric field.

Cost of compliance

Figures from 2004 indicate that there are 138 wastewater treatment plants in Turkey capable of carrying out treatment to a secondary or tertiary standard. To fulfill the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, Turkey will have to build 2,942 new treatment plants for those residential areas which accommodate 2,000 or more people. By the same token, the total length of sewerage systems in Turkey in 2004 was 65,535km, and the plan is to increase the network to 85,200km by 2022.

Wastewater disposal and treatment for more sparsely-populated areas will be addressed later: "For those villages and municipalities where the population is under 2,000, we still have to choose and plan the most suitable treatment and discharge methods," Eroglu told us.

Within the framework of Turkey's environmental investment planning, the government has prioritised no fewer than 15 European directives which relate to irrigation systems and recharge, including the UWWTD, the Bathing Water Directive and the Water Framework Directive. Analysis of the investment costs associated with the implementation of these directives has already been completed, and the total projected costs required to achieve compliance amount to YTL 63-1 billion (euro 34.0 billion), according to Eroglu.

From 2007 to 2023, the estimated cost of constructing and renovating water treatment plants in Turkey is estimated at YTL 23.7 billion (euro 12.7 billion), though Eroglu notes that the level of investment in renovating existing facilities will be three times higher than the financial resources required for the construction of new treatment plants. This reflects the dilapidated nature of many of the country's existing infrastructure facilities.

Over the same time period, the estimated cost of constructing and renovating wastewater treatment plants is expected to be YTL 33.6 billion (euro 18.1 billion). Here, the cost of building new plants is almost on a par with the projected investment needed to modernize existing facilities.

By engaging with domestic Turkish water administrators, European Union bodies and the private sector, there is every chance that Eroglu can live up to his ambition of making Turkey's water sector great using the resources he has at his disposal.

Who is Bakan Veysel Eroglu?

Pro£ Dr. Veysel Eroglu was born in 1948. He graduated from Istanbul Technical University in 1971 with a degree in civil engineering. Between 1976 and 1977, Eroglu was an assistant lecturer in the Hydraulics Department of the Engineering Faculty of Yildiz Technical University. He completed his doctorate in 1980, and carried out postgraduate studies and research at the International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering in Delft (Netherlands) from 1981 to 1982. After his return to Turkey, he became an associate professor in 1984, and in 1991, as a full professor, he became head of the Department of Environmental Engineering.

In 1994, Eroglu was appointed General Director of the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (I SKI), and over the next eight years transformed it into an efficient, customer-friendly, profitable organization.

In February 2003, Eroglu was appointed Director General of State Hydraulic Works (DSI), and in August 20°7, he was elected as an MP and was appointed as the new Minister for Environmental and Forestry Affairs.

Prof. Eroglu's field of expertise embraces water supply, potable water treatment, wastewater treatment and the disposal and treatment of industrial effluent. He is the author of more than 2S0 academic works, and during the 13 years he worked in the public sector, no fewer than 966 new facilities were commissioned by the institutions that he chaired. Eroglu is married with four children.


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