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Water Supply to the City and Transmission Lines

Istanbul, one of the world’s most ancient cities, was first founded in 658 B.C in and around the Sarayburnu area. It is also one of the most important centres of habitation geopolitically, forming a bridge between Europe and Asia. The existence of the Bosphorus, which is a natural miracle, of the famous Golden Horn and the fact that the city is surrounded by seas has enhanced the importance of Istanbul even further. Throughout its history the city has been a magnet both in military and trading terms.

Istanbul began to grow after it came under Roman rule. This aprticularly applies to the year 330 AD, when the Roman emperor Constantine declared the city the capital of the Roman Empire and embellished it with fine buildings. When the schism took place in the Roman Empire in 395 AD, dividing it into “East” and “West”, Istanbul became the centre of the East Roman Empire.

The Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, a religion which occupied an important place in world history from the 7th century onwards, had already realised the importance of this city, for he knew it would play a major role in the pursuit of world power. After Mohammed’s praise of the commanders and troops who would one day conquer the city, men strove for many years to be given the honour of undertaking this task. The man on whom this honour was bestowed was the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet Khan II, also know as “Fatih” (the conqueror). Since this event, which marked the end of one era and the beginning of another, the city has borne the name “Istanbul” and has been under Turkish rule ever since, attaining the highest level of civilisation in its history during this period.

Water Supply Systems Built in Istanbul before the Ottoman Conquest:

Water Supply Systems Built in Istanbul before the Ottoman Conquest:- The first water supply systems to be built in Istanbul date back to the foundation of the city, when underground sources were used. The first major water supply lines were built during the Roman period by the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 A.D). These ran overland from a source outside the city walls to districts along the Golden Horn. Two great aqueducts built in Roman times are the Mazulkemer and the Bozdoğan (Valens) aqueducts, thought to have been built by Valens (364-378), in order to channel water from the Halkalı area to Beyazit. A dam was also built in the Belgrade Forests in the reign of Valens and the waters of the Kâğıthane Stream were collected in pools, whence they flowed to the city.

Theodosius I (378-395), making use of the Mazulkemer and Valens aqueducts, built a third water supply line to the city and a fourth one was constructed between the Belgrade Forest and Sultanahmet. During the Roman and Byzantine periods a large number of open and covered cisterns and reservoirs were built inside the city so that supplies would be ensured for periods of drought and war. The most important of these open water storage facilities are the Actius Reservoir (today’s Vefa Stadium), the Aspar Reservoir (Çukurbostan in the Yavuz Selim district) and Hegius Mocius in the city’s Altınmermer district. Of the covered storage facilities (or cisterns), the most famous are the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan) with its 366 columns, the Pilexenus Cistern (Binbirdirek), supported by 224 columns and the Acımusluk Cistern.

Although the water supply systems built by the Roman emperors were repaired and extended in Byzantine times, they had become virtually unusable by the end of this period and were in an extremely dilapidated state. The Mazul and Valens aqueducts, being the two main structures surviving from this period, were thoroughly repaired by the Ottomans and saved from destruction.


The Ottoman Period:

In the course of time increasing population led to water shortages. Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent commissioned Sinan, his engineer and architect-in-chief, to solve the problem. Thus, construction of the Kırkçeşme Water Supply System commenced in 1555.

Water from the Alibey and Kâğıthane streams was collected in pools and channelled to Eğrikapı and from there to the inner city. Due to the fact that there were no pipes about to withstand the excessive pressure, aqueducts were built to carry the water over the valleys. It can be observed that the precise measurements and calculations made in establishing waterways and in construction of the water supply lines, aqueducts and accumulation pools were just as reliable as those made today by means of modern instruments.

There are four aqueducts in the Kırkçeşme supply system, completed in 1563 – Uzun Kemer, Eğri Kemer, Güzelce Kemer and Mağlova. Even in the driest months of the year the Kırkçeşme system, with a discharge of 4,200 m3 per day, was able to supply 158 different locations (94 public drinking fountains, 19 wells, 15 watering troughs, 13 public baths and 7 palaces among others.)

After Süleyman the Magnificent the amount of water and number of locations supplied were increased with many additions made to the system by charitable persons. Dams were built over streams in water catchment areas, enabling water to be accumulated during the winter months for the summer.

The 4 dams in the Belgrade Forest, known as the Kırkçeşme Dams, are Karanlık Dam (Osman II, 1620), Büyük Dam (Ahmet III, 1723), Ayvad Dam (Mustafa III, 1765) and Kirazlı Dam (Mahmud II, 1818). These dams enabled the daily discharge of the Kırkçeşme Waters to be increased to 10,000 m3.

The problem of water supply to the Beyoğlu district was solved for the first time in 1732 with the construction of the Taksim Waters supply system. Channelled from a catchment area with a daily discharge of 800 m3 near Bahçeköy via a 20 km supply line into a 2,700 m3 reservoir at Taksim, the water was then conveyed to 64 public and charity fountains and 3 ornamental fountains by means of the water distribution system below the reservoir. The Bahçeköy (Sultan Mahmut) Aqueduct, built in 1732 by Mahmut I, the Topuzlu Dam, Valide Dam and Mahmut II Dam are all part of this system and with their construction the daily discharge of the Taksim Waters was boosted to 3,000 m3.

Miscellaneous Waters (Foundation Waters):

In order to meet public demand, water from various springs was channelled to the public fountains by means of small supply lines. The most important of these systems is the Hamidiye Waters, built in 1904 by Abdülhamid II. With a daily discharge of 1,200 m3, the water feeding this system came from wells at Kemerburgaz and supplied barracks, palaces and about 50 public drinking fountains in and around the Beyoğlu district of the city.

The Kanlıkavak and Sarıyer Waters, which supplied Emirgân, are spring waters of this type. Sources on the Asian Side of the city include the Kayışdağı, Atikvalide and Küçükçamlıca Alemdağ (Taşdelen) waters and On Çeşmeler, Karakulak and İshakağa at Beykoz.

The Water Companies:

In order to counter water shortages in Istanbul, one of the world’s most important metropolises, and to provide water at pressure to the new buildings erected in the city, a franchise was granted by Sultan Abdülaziz to a French company in 1868.Thus, the “Dersaadet Incorporated Water Company” – or Terkos Company – was founded. It was agreed that this company would collect water from springs, streams and underground sources, channel it via supply lines, purify the water at Lake Terkos, channel it to the city and distribute it.

The first facility to be built was the Pumping Station on the shore of Lake Terkos in 1883. In 1888 a dyke was built to increase the general height of the lake. In 1926 the first Water Treatment Plant was built on the hills above Kâğıthane. Thus, water was channelled to the city after filtration and chlorination. On the other hand, in order to satisfy the continually increasing need for water on the Asian Side of the city, the Üsküdar-Kadıköy Water Company, founded in 1888, built the first Elmalı Dam on the Elmalı Stream in 1893. Water pipes were laid along the Asian Side of the city from Anadoluhisarı to Bostancı. Then a water treatment plant and a pumping station were built for the waters of Elmalı Dam Lake. A transmission line as far as Bağlarbaşı and Bağlarbaşı Reservoir were also built by the Company.

The Istanbul Water Administration Period:

When companies with franchises made maximum use of their rights and avoided fulfilling their obligations it was decided that the existence of these companies would not solve the problem. In 1932 the Terkos Company and in 1937 the Üsküdar-Kadıköy Water Company were taken over and transferred to the Istanbul Waters Administration (İSİ). In that period that total daily water supply to Istanbul was in the region of 35,000 m3. Work was carried out by İSİ to boost the capacity of the Terkos Pumping Station and the Kâğıthane Water Treatment Plant, reinforcing and adding to the Stage Two transmission lines, thus boosting their capacity, increasing the number of pumping stations in the city and installing electric pumps to replace the steam pumps. Artesian wells were opened up at Çırpıcı and a pumping station was built. A power line was erected between Terkos and Silâhtarağa and electric pumps were installed in the Terkos pumping stations. The water supply lines and distribution network of the Ömerli Dam Lake, built by the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSİ) were completed. On the Asian Side the 2nd Elmalı Dam was built on the Elmalı Stream, electric pumps being installed in the Elmalı Pumping Station. Improvements were made at the Water Treatment Plant. Water Storage Terminals and pumping stations were set up on the Princes Islands. The supply lines and distribution network of the Ömerli Dam Lake, built by DSİ, were completed.

Due to the social unrest that had broken out in Turkey at that time there was intensive internal migration to Istanbul, particularly from the south-east. This resulted in rapid population increase to around the 10 million mark within a short space of time. There was no infrastructure to cater for these developments and the shanty towns that were springing up on the outskirts of the city made it even more difficult to provide public utilities and services. When the Istanbul Water Administration found it impossible to meet the water supply and sewerage requirements of this growing population the need to found an authority with wider powers and a bigger budget emerged.

The name of this new body, founded in 1981, was the Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (İSKİ).




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