Executive Summary 

The Euphrates River has three main shared tributaries: the Sajur and the Balikh/Jallab are shared between Syria and Turkey, while the Khabour sub-basin is shared between Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

With an average annual discharge of 97 MCM, the Sajur is the smallest of the three tributaries. Originally, the Balikh/Jallab was fed primarily by the karstic Ain al Arous Spring, but it increasingly receives irrigation return flows from intensive agricultural projects, mainly in Turkey.

The Khabour is the largest of the three shared Euphrates tributaries in terms of length and mean annual discharge. However, annual flow has decreased dramatically over recent decades from 2,120 BCM before 1980 to 924 MCM around 2000, with values constantly decreasing since then. The Khabour river dries up seasonally at several locations as a result of intensive irrigated agriculture in Syria and Turkey.

While the three Euphrates tributaries used to make up around 8% of annual Euphrates flow, today their contribution has dropped to 5% or less due to decreased flow of the Khabour. In all three sub-basins water is mainly used for irrigation purposes.

In the Balikh/Jallab sub-basin, the Turkish Urfa-Harran Project imports water from the Atatürk Dam reservoir to irrigate large areas of land which have transformed the Jallab River from an intermittent stream into a perennial river. In the Khabour sub-basin both riparians developed extensive irrigation schemes that have transformed land use patterns and the natural flow regime of the river.

There are no specific water agreements in place for any of the three shared tributaries.

  • The Sajur River in Syria, 2009. Source: Andreas Renck.
  • Ain al Arous Spring, Syria, 2009. Source: Andreas Renck.
  • The Jallab River on the Syrian-Turkish border, Syria, 2010. Source: Andreas Renck.
  • The Khabour near Tell Halaf, Ras al Ain, Syria, 2009. Source: Bertramz.

Basin Facts 

River Sajur Balikh/Jallab Khabour
Basin Countries Syria 40%
Turkey 60%
Syria 38%
Turkey 62%
Iraq 6%
Syria 66%
Turkey 28%
River Length 108 km 196 km 388 km
Basin Area 2,860 km2 13,600 km2 36,200 km2
Mean Annual Flow Volume 98 MCM ~140-210 MCM 924 MCM
Main Dams 2 Unregulated to date 3
Projected Irrigated Area .. ~330,000 ha ~404,000 ha