South Asia: Exceptional water deficits in Gujarat and southern India

19 December 2016

The Big Picture
Exceptional water deficits in southern India dominate the 12-month forecast (below). Exceptional surpluses are forecast in western Myanmar, and surpluses of varying severity are forecast in much of Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Banas River Basin (tributary of the Chambal) and Son River Basin (tributary of the Ganges) in India. Deficits are forecast for western Afghanistan and much of Pakistan.

Impacts
Officials in Sri Lanka are predicting that the 2016/2017 drought could be the worst since the early ‘70s and are warning Sri Lankans to conserve water and electricity. The country’s rice crop is expected to be down with only 30 percent of arable area cultivated. Water for drinking has taken priority and the Department of Irrigation has ceased water for irrigation.

Two consecutive years of drought in Maharashtra could reduce India’s 2016/17 sugar production to 22 million tons, down from previous estimates and below India’s consumption of 25 million. Reduced supply would force local prices up and prompt India to allow duty-free imports of sugar.

Beverage bottlers in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu have been banned from drawing water from the Tamirabarani River for eight weeks starting 21 November due to drought conditions.

The water level in Pakistan’s Ankara Kaur dam serving the port city of Gwadar and adjacent towns reached the dead level - so low that water cannot be drained by gravity but must be pumped - on 10 December. According to a public health engineer, the dam’s catchment areas have not received rain in years. Balochistan’s provincial chief secretary issued directives to supply water by tankers from nearby dams, but diverting water could be problematic as the entire Makran belt – a coastal strip along the Gulf of Oman – has suffered lack of rainfall.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) show the evolving conditions.

What is apparent in a quick look at observed conditions (Sep-Nov) compared to forecast conditions (Dec-May) is that while the exceptional deficits which have dominated southern India will slowly diminish over the next six months, exceptional deficits will emerge throughout Gujarat and into Rajasthan. From December through February moderate to exceptional deficits will persist in southern India but the extent of exceptional deficits will diminish. Exceptional deficits will emerge in Gujarat and in southeastern Madhya Pradesh. Deficits of varying severity are forecast to emerge in much of the remainder of the country, and as deficits emerge, areas of previous surplus in the Banas River Basin and Son River Basin will transition to conditions of both surplus and deficit (shown in purple and pink). Exceptional surpluses will persist in western Myanmar, and in much of Bangladesh and Nepal. Deficits are forecast to diminish in severity in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and in Chandigarh and Uttarakhand (India) though moderate deficits will persist.

From March through May deficits in southern India will continue to diminish in extent and severity. Exceptional deficits will emerge throughout Gujarat, and in Rajasthan and northern Maharashtra. Surpluses are forecast for West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar. Surpluses will persist in Nepal’s eastern two-thirds, and western and coastal Bangladesh, and surpluses in western Myanmar will transition to both deficits and surpluses.

The final months of the forecast – May through July – show few significant anomalies at this time.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Comment

Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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