What Is the Source of the Tigris River?

The Tigris in Baghdad, Iraq.

The Tigris River is a large river in the Middle East that runs through Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The Tigris and Euphrates River are the two major rivers that define Mesopotamia, the historical region which is part of the cradle of civilization. The Tigris drains into the Persian Gulf in Western Asia. The term Tigris comes from an Old Persian word “Tigra,” with origins from the Sumerian word “Idigna” which means “the swift river.” The countries of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran share the river’s basin, which has a population of 23.4 million people.

Source and Geography

The Tigris begins in Lake Hazar, which is located in the Taurus Mountains. The lake measures 14 miles at its maximum length and has a maximum width of 3.7 miles. The source is located in eastern Turkey, about 16 miles southeast of the city of Elazig and about 50 miles from the origin of the Euphrates. The river has a length of 1,150 miles and a basin area of 144,788 square miles. The Tigris flows for approximately 249 miles through Turkey before forming a 27 mile long portion of the Turkish-Syrian border. The Tigris then splits into a number of channels before joining up with the Euphrates and forming the Shatt-al-Arab near the town of Al-Qurnah in Iraq. The capital city of Iraq, Baghdad, sits on the banks of the Tigris.

Management of the Tigris

Iraq and Turkey have several dams built along the Tigris, mainly to serve as an irrigation source in the river valley, which is a region that is both arid and semi-desert. The construction of these water control projects has reduced the river’s flow of water downstream. Iraq’s largest dam, Mosul Dam, located in Ninawa, opened on July 7, 1986, to provide irrigation water and hydroelectricity. The power plant has a capacity of 1,052 megawatts and generates 3,420 gigawatt-hours annually. Dicle Dam, which is located in Turkey, is part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project and opened in 1997 with an annual hydroelectric power generation of 298 gigawatt-hours. Other dams on the Tigris include the Samarra Barrage, Badush Dam and the proposed Cizre Dam.


The Tigris has more tributaries on the left than the right, with the major one being the Batman River, which joins the Tigris close to its source. The Batman River has a length of 71 miles and forms a border between the Turkish provinces of Diyarbakir and Batman. The 250-mile long Great Zab is a river that drains into the Tigris River in Iraq. The Great Zab has many tributaries including Bastura Chai, Khazir, and Rukuchuk. Other branches joining the Tigris include the following rivers: Khabur, Cizre, Diyala, Lesser Zab, and ‘Adhaim.

Facts About the Tigris

The countries that share the basin of the Tigris have signed treaties concerning their use of the river. One significant agreements was completed in 2009 between Syria and Turkey, which approved a pumping project by Syria on the Tigris. Due to its short length, the Tigris River floods a month before the Euphrates. The river has nearly 55 species of fish, which makes fishing an essential practice. However, wars and pollution have caused a decline in the fishing industry. The Iraqi coat of arms from 1932 to 1959 featured the Tigris River. Additionally, the Old Testament of the Christian Bible mentions the Tigris River twice in the books of Genesis and Daniel.


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