The village wing of Fethiye Times is a member of the local water cooperative – su birlik in Turkish – and, as you town dwellers may not even be aware of the existence of such things, we thought we’d tell the tale of ours.

The village wing of Fethiye Times is a member of the local water cooperative – su birlik in Turkish – and, as you town dwellers may not even be aware of the existence of such things, we thought we’d tell the tale of ours.

The su birliks (easier to type than ‘water cooperative’) control the flow of the water you see flowing in irrigation channels wherever crops are being grown in the area.  Three of the boundaries of Fethiye Times’ plot in the village comprise such channels, which aren’t always flowing with water.  In fact it is still a mystery to us how the water flow is controlled, but one we have learnt to live with. (And if we ever do discover the secret, you shall read about it here). When water suddenly starts to flow through a channel that has been dry for some time, we have learned to dash out and clear debris (twigs, dried leaves, etc.) from the channel, or we shall have a mini flood in the garden.  And on one memorable occasion the Fethiye Times spouse was actually standing in the channel, wearing his wellies (it was muddy), engaged in a little mild tree pruning, when suddenly someone turned the water on and it flooded his boots. 

To return to the su birlik.  When we bought the land here in 2003 we were told we should go and register with the su birlik but, as we didn’t intend to use the water in the channels, we ignored the advice.  Instead we had a well dug to provide water for the garden.

In 2005 we received a summons issued on behalf of the su birlik for non-payment of water bills.  As there is nothing like the threat of legal action to focus the mind, we shot down to the village muhtar’s office – our muhtar is also chair of the su birlik.  It transpired that, due to total lack of administrative effort, no-one in the village had paid any money to the su birlik for up to five years.  The muhtar, who at this point had only recently taken over the running of the birlik, had decided to try and collect all monies owed.  To do so quickly and efficiently he had arranged for summonses to be sent to all debtors.  I pointed out that we weren’t even registered with the birlik, but a quick check in the large ledger proved that we were – the tenants who were here when we bought the place had registered us and left us their debts to clear.  I then pointed out that we didn’t use the water in the channels, but had a well.  And thus learned that there is a fixed annual fee to be paid for a well as the su birlik also ‘own’ the rights to artesian water.  The issue of the summons was settled with a little bargaining, and we were told to remember that we must pay our bill to the su birlik every year in August.  As with so many other things here, no written reminders are issued.

Fast forward to August 2006 and Fethiye Times duly attended the su birlik headquarters, for some reason in a different village to the one in which it actually controls the water (another mystery we can live with), and announced we had come to pay the bill for our well.  In the interim all records had been computerised and, with a click of the mouse, the young woman administrator announced that it had been decided, in view of the fine the previous year, not to charge us for 2006.  “See you next year” she said as we rapidly exited.

And now it is August 2007 and another visit is due and this time there is a long list of possible crops taped to the door of the su birlik headquarters, each with their annual rate for water.  Most of them seem to be 25YTL with the rate for use of a well being the grand sum of 10YTL.  The young woman is on holiday, but an equally friendly young man has taken her place.  He clicks his mouse and says “I’ve got you down here as a commercial grower of oranges”.

“No” we reply  “that was the case before we bought the place.  We’ve chopped down most of the trees to make way for a garden, and we eat all the fruit from the few that are left.  We don’t sell any oranges.  We just want to pay the rate for our well.”

“Oh I know” he says “your garden is lovely.  I inspected it and I know you’ve got a well.”  This is news to us as we certainly weren’t at home when he carried out this inspection. “Tell you what, I can’t alter the records on the computer but Zeynep will be back from holiday next week so come back then and she’ll turn you into a well only, and you can pay your 10YTL”.

Next week will be September and, as far as Fethiye Times is aware, all annual bills must be paid by the end of August to avoid incurring a fine.  This fact is pointed out and he replies “No we’ve changed that.  Lots of people couldn’t be bothered coming to pay in August because it is too hot, so we’ve extended the deadline to the end of September.”

And so we depart making a mental note to call in again at some point in September and settle this year’s bill.

Two things strike Fethiye Times:

1. Think how much money the UK could save if it didn’t send out reminders for council tax, car insurance, etc., etc.  You either pay at the right time or are liable to a fine.

2. If the only the friendly folk at our su birlik could be replicated in other areas of local bureaucracy here.