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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


Two institutions are or were responsible for irrigation and drainage development activities, namely the previously mentioned DSI (General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works) and the GDRS (General Directorate of Rural Services).

The DSI was established in 1954 by an exclusive Act No. 6200 (Ozlu et al, 2002b). It is the main agency responsible for the planning, development and management of water and soil resources as well as the operation and maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems, including construction of dams for flood control, irrigation, power generation, pumping stations, water supply and groundwater development. In projects it manages directly, the DSI uses its own labour resources and mechanical equipment (Tekinel and Erdem, 1995). Based in Ankara, the DSI operates through its regional directorates situated in the 26 river basins. In these regions, 56 sub-directorates and 14 project directorates carry out operation and maintenance activities in irrigation through their field units (MSDC, 1999; Akusum and Kodal, 2000; Ozlu et al, 2002a).

The GDRS was established in 1985 as part of the reorganization of the General Directorate of Soil and Water, the General Directorate of Roads, Water and Electricity and the General Directorate of Soil and Resettlement. The GDRS was mainly responsible for irrigation development and small irrigation works up to 500 l/sec (MSDC, 1999; FNCI, 2001). However, the GDRS was abolished under Law No. 5286 of 13 January 2005 on Village Services and most of its duties and competencies were transferred to special provincial administrations in 79 provinces and to the greater municipalities in the provinces of Istanbul and Kocaeli. Many problems have occurred due to the lack of an inventory and standardization units. In 2005, Law No. 5403 gave powers to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for soil protection and land use.

Water management

Irrigation projects have been implemented by the DSI and the GDRS. As is the case in many other countries, the irrigation schemes developed by the state are operated and managed in two ways: by the government and by local authorities, cooperatives and irrigation farmers unions in the irrigation districts (Uskay, 2001). The DSI can be responsible for the operation, maintenance and management of irrigation facilities it has constructed or it can transfer such responsibility to several organizations according to current legislation. In the case of a transfer, however, it is only the management that is transferred, not the ownership of these facilities. The DSI has transferred the largest area to Water User Associations (WUAs), which cover about 1.52 million ha of land. The responsibilities of the former GDRS were reassigned to the Special Provincial Administrations by Law No. 5286 after 2005.


Historically, Turkey had a poor record as regards collecting water fees before the management of irrigation schemes was transferred from the DSI to the WUAs. For example, the collection rate of water fees was 38 percent in 1989–1994. After management was transferred to the farmers, performance improved and cost recovery was 93 percent in 1997, 76 percent in 2003, and 87 percent in 2006. The two main inputs in the preparation of the water tariffs for irrigation management by the DSI are: cost of operation and maintenance and estimated areas that can be irrigated (Unver and Gupta, 2003). In schemes managed by the WUAs, the water tariffs are set annually when the budget of the association is prepared for the approval of the DSI and the local governorship. Water fees are collected by an official acting under Law No. 6183 on the Collection of Public Receivables. Depending on the decision of the WUAs, payments can be made in two or three instalments. There are economic incentives for early payment and substantial penalties for late payment (Halcrow-Dosar Joint Venture, 2000; Ozlu et al, 2003). Nevertheless, the present form of irrigation charges, based on the type of crop and the area irrigated, provides little incentive to irrigators to conserve water.

Policies and legislation

Although the DSI has had a policy of transferring irrigation systems management to users since the 1950s, the average area transferred only amounted to about 2 000 ha/year until 1993 (Doker et al, 2001). Since 1993, DSI policy has been to transfer only small and isolated schemes, which are difficult and uneconomical for them to manage. However, with persuasion from the World Bank, since 1993, the DSI also started to apply an Accelerated Transfer Program (ATP). The main purpose of the ATP has been to alleviate the unsustainable operation and maintenance financial burden on both DSI and government resources (Svendsen and Murray-Rust, 2001). The ATP in Turkey was founded on a downward-reaching link between the DSI and local administrations rather than through the bottom-up organization of village-level associations of irrigators (Svendsen and Nott, 1999). The ATP continues to be successfully implemented today (Yildirim and Çakmak, 2004).


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