Cablegate: Early Snow Melt Forces Large Water Release From

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. An early snow-melt in north-eastern Turkey filled
Turkey's Euphrates dams, forcing authorities to release a
record amount of water downstream to Syria and Iraq. For ten
days beginning March 11, and for the first time since
building the dams, Turkey opened reservoir spillways to
release as much as 2,500 cubic meters per second. The normal
flow for the spring season averages about 800 cubic meters
per second. By March 22, the flow of water to Syria had
declined to 1,358 cubic meters per second and Turkish
officials told us that the northern-most reservoir (Keban)
now has enough excess storage capacity to handle the
remaining snow melt.

2. CPA and U.S. military officials in Iraq had been
concerned that, had the extraordinary flow continued for
long, rising waters could have forced some military units to
move their bases. MFA has agreed to supply embassy REO with
weekly information on water flow to Syria (Euphrates) and
Iraq (Tigris), which we will pass on to CPA.

3. Turkish authorities informed the Syrian government ahead
of the release. Their embassy and consulate in Aleppo
reported that the high flow did not result in any flooding in
Syria. MFA Water Department Head Mithat Rende took the
opportunity to point our that the much-criticized Turkish
dams provide a critical service to Syria and Iraq, preventing
flooding in the spring and ensuring water flow in the dry
months of summer. He said that before the dams were
constructed spring floods regularly devastated villages and
farmland along the river. For example, in 1967, the flow of
water to Syria reached 10,000 cubic meters per second.

4. Turkey has constructed an extensive system of Euphrates
dams, which can store 90.66 cubic kilometers of water. This
is roughly equivalent to three years' flow into Syria. The
largest dam -- Ataturk -- has a capacity of almost 50 cubic
kilometers. The Euphrates river basin covers almost 122,000
square miles in Turkey, collecting 33 cubic kilometers of
water each year.

5. The former director of Turkey's State Hydraulics Agency
and Professor at Middle East Technical University, Dogan
Altinbilek, shared with us his estimates for the annual water
flow along the Euphrates. Of the 33 cubic kilometers of
water collected in Turkey's portion of the Euphrates basin,
about 17 is released into Syria. Syria's tributaries add
about 2 cubic kilometers and Syria uses about 5.5, leaving
13.5 for Iraq. Because Iraq uses 15.5 cubic kilometers from
the Euphrates, it would be dry before reaching the Gulf if
not supplemented by water from the Tigris, according to
Altinbilek's estimates.

Baghdad Minimize Considered

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