16 Mar 2023

Water in Istanbul Symposium at ITU

Water in Istanbul project, of which ITU is one of the stakeholders, was introduced to the world with an international symposium held at Taşkışla on March 14, 2023. The project aims to investigate water management in Istanbul from the Byzantine and Ottoman times to the present day, and to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies to address current problems.

News: İTÜ Media and Communication Office

ITU, which declared 2023 as the Year of Sustainability, hosted an important symposium exploring water management in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The symposium titled “Water in Istanbul and Beyond: Past, Present and Future”, where the Water in Istanbul project was introduced, also shed light on the drought problem that threatens our country.

On the future of water management in Istanbul

The symposium “Water in Istanbul and Beyond: Past, Present and Future” brought together speakers from ITU, British Institute at Ankara (BIAA), University of Edinburgh, Northumbria University and Middle East Technical University (METU). The research under the “Water in Istanbul: Rising to the Challenge?” project is supported within the framework of British Academy - Knowledge Frontiers: International Interdisciplinary Research Scheme.

Our Vice-Rector Prof. Dr. Şule Itır Satoğlu, who made the opening speech of the symposium, emphasized the importance of the subject and said the following: “Water management in Istanbul has posed challenges for the authorities from past to present. In order to use water resources efficiently and deliver them to the city, large projects have been carried out and important structures have been built. The significant experience of Istanbul in this field actually includes sample cases that shed light on today and the future.”

Şafak Başa, General Director of Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI), and Kate Greary, Deputy Consul General of British Consulate General Istanbul, also addressed the participants at the opening of the symposium.

Drought and water security were discussed

Lutgarde Vandeput, the project’s principal investigator from BIAA, outlined the symposium with her speech “Sustainable Water Infrastructure: Past, Present, Future”. Lecturer Dr. Çiğdem Özkan Aygün, project co-investigator on behalf of ITU from Department of Fine Arts, shared with the public various archaeological findings she has reached together with her research team.

The symposium also addressed in detail the cisterns and aqueducts built during the Byzantine period to supply water to Istanbul, ancient practices in other geographies such as Athens, and historical water management. In addition, issues such as water security in Türkiye’s agricultural lands were also discussed in the sessions.

Brief history of Water in Istanbul Project

Since the 4th century CE, when Istanbul was planned from scratch as the capital of the Roman Empire, it has been a city in constant danger of water scarcity. In order to meet the needs of its growing population, various methods were used to bring water to Istanbul, and to store and distribute it. This project provided important information for the examination of structures, a significant part of which has been buried under the ground over time, a better understanding of the historical methods used in water management, and the solution of Istanbul’s future water problem.

With the support of professional divers, cavers, photographers and video artists, previously unseen structures were brought to daylight. Areas inaccessible to humans were examined with remote-controlled ROV vehicles. The obtained results were compared with radar scans. Water channel systems, pipes and wells were examined in detail. It was determined that Hagia Sophia was a strategic water distribution point in the early periods of Istanbul’s foundation.

The study was expanded with surveys under the Hippodrome and the Topkapi Palace, which was built on the ancient acropolis area, and Istanbul Archeology Museum area. Previously unknown structures such as water distribution lines and water chests, which are very rare, were uncovered by dives using robotic cameras. The study and its results attracted public attention as part of the 2010 Istanbul Capital of Culture events. It has also been the subject of documentaries prepared by many domestic and foreign media institutions.

Within the scope of the “Water in Istanbul: Rising to the Challenge?” project, four workshops have been organized so far with the participation of relevant institutions such as Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, district municipalities, ISKI, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to discuss the current water problem and propose solutions.

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