Water resource management is critical to Turkey's economy and environment. The country has an annuual average of 112 billion m3 of economically exploitable water. Agriculture uses almost three quarters of available freshwater, while 15 percent is for domestic uses and 11 percent for industry. Water and its related ecosystems (e.g. lakes, wetlands, coastal zones) also provide other important benefits such as protection from floods, pollution abatement, and biodiversity conservation. 

The country’s water resources are under increasing pressure. Population growth and climate change are expected to reduce water availability in many areas. In addition, pollution of water bodies (e.g. by untreated wastewater discharge in rivers) could reduce water quality significantly. In this context, conserving the quantity and quality of water resources is essential for the country’s long-term growth and sustainability.

The Turkish Government is very interested in integrating natural capital accounting for forest and water sectors into ongoing planning and management efforts. In response to the Government’s request for technical assistance, the World Bank launched a Natural Capital Accounting program in Turkey. The program covered a forest valuation study, conducted in 2015, and the present water valuation study, completed in 2016. 

The water valuation study provides a methodology for estimating the economic value of water, and applies it in a rapid economic valuation of the country’s largest freshwater body: Beyşehir Lake. The lake supplies water to about 120,000 people and supports the local economy in the agriculture, tourism, and industrial sectors. However, it suffers from water over-abstraction, overfishing, release of domestic and industrial pollutants, ineffective coordination among authorities, and unplanned urbanization.

The study identifies the main types of water values based on the Total Economic Value (TEV) framework. It includes direct use values, (e.g. water for irrigation, municipal use, recreation); indirect use values (e.g. pollution abatement, flood control); option values (e.g. potential future uses of water ecosystems) and non-use values (e.g. biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage). It then estimates these water benefits based on a variety of methods (e.g. market pricing, replacement cost, residual method, benefits transfer). Valuation is based mainly on secondary information, and the results are orders of magnitude.

Key results from the report include:

  • The TEV of Beyşehir Lake is estimated at TL271 million, which is equivalent to 13 percent of the Beyşehir subcatchment’s GDP in 2015

  • The lake’s economic value is 7 times greater than its financial value. The economic value comprises the value of water for irrigation, municipal uses, recreation, fishing, pollution abatement and biodiversity conservation. The financial value reflects actual revenues derived from tariffs paid for irrigation water, municipal water and fees collected from visitors and sales of fishing licenses.

  • Water supply for agriculture is the most important component of TEV, followed by water for municipal uses. This is because much more water is used by agriculture than for municipal use. However, the economic unit value of water allocated for municipal use (TL5/m3) is over 9 times greater than that for irrigation (TL0.5/m3), suggesting that the current water allocation is inefficient.

  • Recreation, fishing and biodiversity conservation are relatively important benefits provided by the lake, whose values could be improved through more sustainable management. 
  • The lake’s decreasing water levels and its worsening quality impose social costs on local people. Beyşehir residents are willing to pay about TL2 million per year to improve the lake’s quality. Although conservative, this suggests the need and willingness to deal with the competing uses of the lake in order to reduce the risk of depletion and pollution in the near future.

The report makes several policy recommendations based on these findings:

  • At the local level (Beyşehir Lake): There is urgent need for conservation measures to encourage more sustainable water use and an improvement of valuable services, such as recreation and biodiversity. In addition, there is the need to improve the current water allocation among the multiple uses. To validate this conclusion and improve allocation, a more comprehensive valuation of the economic benefits of water is required, particularly on the value of the water for irrigation, municipal use, recreation, and biodiversity, which are at present estimated imperfectly. A better understanding of the value of water in its various uses will help design systems that improve the total benefits of water use by improving its allocation.
  • At the national level. The study recommends nurturing the existing political will and institutional arrangements to support the incorporation of valuation into decision-making; conducting comprehensive studies covering a wide range of values and a wide range of river basins; and integrating water valuation into river basins management plans, which are being prepared in alignment with the European Union – Water Framework Directive.  Overall, the study will help the Government design future actions on water allocation planning, especially in water-scarce basins.