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Drain on the Mediterranean: rising water usage

In a dramatic illustration of a broader regional crisis, a Turkish lake three times the size of Washington, D.C., has dried up in the past 15 years.

Turkey's disappearing lakes
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Arif Karaoglu recalls the days when Lake Aksehir lapped at the foot of the village mosque and residents had to build high walls to protect their homes from flooding. Now, when he looks out across the landscape, he sees only a vast, sandy plateau. Until recently, a body of water three times the size of Washington, D.C., filled the plain.

"Dust," laments Mr. Karaoglu, who moved to the village in 1942. "There's nothing but dust."

Dubbed the country's grain warehouse, central Turkey's Konya plain has long been known for its beautiful lakes and vast fields, which produce 10 percent of Turkey's agricultural yield. But both are now threatened by a severe water shortage that dramatically illustrates a broader regional crisis.

Across the Mediter-ranean, water is being pumped out of the earth at an unsustainable pace. In Italy's Milan region, groundwater levels have fallen by more than 80 feet over the past 80 years. So much water has been pumped from the Jeffara aquifer in Libya that even if all withdrawals stopped, it would take 75 years for the aquifer to return to its original level, estimates a 2005 report by the Blue Plan – a United Nations program on development and the environment in the Mediterranean.

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