Middle East: Water deficits in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen

28 March 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast through November 2017 (below) shows widespread severe to exceptional water deficits affecting Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and United Arab Emirates. Deficits of varying intensity are also in the forecast for much of Turkey, coastal Georgia, southern Iraq, and central Iran.

Impacts
The conflict in Yemen, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, has left 14.4 million people without access to safe drinking water or sanitation, and as of March 2017 22,181 suspected cases of cholera and 103 associated deaths have been reported. The UN's World Food Programme estimates that 7.3 million Yemenis are "severely food insecure" and that the country has about 3 months of food stored, likely not enough to avoid famine.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) reports that water levels in the Euphrates River have risen 10 meters (33 feet) since January, partly due to heavy rainfall and snow. Further increase in the water level from precipitation or damage to Syria's Tabqa dam - about 500 meters upriver from the ISIS stronghold of Raqa - "would have catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream," the UN warned. Syrian farmers in the region fear the deliberate destruction of Tabqa by ISIS, which would flood communities and agricultural land.

Over the last two decades precipitation in Iran has decreased by 10 percent, says the country's Energy Minister, while average temperature has increased 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and 25 billion cubic meters of water resources have evaporated. The volume of running water has decreased 20 percent and the feed that goes into groundwater is down by 15 percent.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in greater detail.

Though the extent of exceptional deficits in the region is expected to nearly disappear March through May, moderate to severe deficits are forecast for the Arabian Peninsula. Deficits are also forecast for much of Turkey with some pockets reaching extreme intensity. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and southern Iraq. Severe to extreme deficits are expected to persist in coastal Georgia. Surpluses are forecast in Iran from the central Persian Gulf inland to the center of Kerman Province.

From June through August the extent and severity of deficits will increase throughout much of the region, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula where deficits ranging from severe to exceptional are forecast for nearly all of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, and limited areas of Oman. The extent of deficits will increase in Syria, as well as the severity of deficits in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel. Deficits are expected to emerge in West Bank and Gaza. Severe deficits are forecast to emerge in Iraq west of the Euphrates, and continue to emerge in southern Iraq, with increasing severity. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast in Turkey and will emerge farther east than in the prior three months. Deficits of equal severity are expected to emerge in much of Iran’s eastern two-thirds.

After August the forecast indicates that widespread extreme deficits will continue to emerge on the Arabian Peninsula.

(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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