Africa: Exceptional water deficits shrink, surpluses persist in White Nile Basin

October 25, 2016

The Big Picture
The 12-month map for July 2016 through June 2017 shows moderate to exceptional water deficits forecast across northern Africa along with scattered pockets of both deficits and surpluses. Deficits are also forecast for Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are expected to be exceptional along the northern border and into Central African Republic. Surpluses are forecast for southeast Sudan into South Sudan.

Drought-related agricultural losses in Tunisia are expected to be around 2 billion dinars ($905 million) this year, according to the Tunisian Agricultural and Fishing Union. Without water for irrigation some farmers have delayed planting, and tensions over water allocation have erupted between interior agricultural residents and metropolitan areas on the Mediterranean. Protesters in Fernana converged on a local dam and briefly cut off the water supply to Tunis and protesters in Mateur blocked a road for two days. Lack of water is poised to become a threat multiplier in Tunisia, layered on high unemployment and terrorism.

Zimbabwe's drought - one of the worst in 20 years - has left 5.5 million people in need of food aid and has increased the challenge of meeting the medical and nutritional needs of 196,000 HIV patients in the 15 districts worst affected by the drought. Drought-induced migration has disrupted families, separating approximately 200 children from their primary caregivers according to a UN report. Parents looking for work in neighboring South Africa or Botswana often abandon children to the care of grandparents who themselves are unable to provide for them.

An estimated 40 percent of the population in Malawi will need humanitarian food assistance in early 2017 as drought has led to widespread crop failure and a second consecutive national maize deficit. 

Forecast Breakdown
Most noticeable in the October through December map is that the extent of exceptional deficits across the continent is forecast to shrink considerably. Deficits of varying severity will continue to affect northern Africa along with scattered pockets of both deficits and surpluses. The forecast for the southern half of the continent indicates much improved conditions over the prior three months. However, moderate to extreme deficits are forecast for eastern Central African Republic and Republic of the Congo, and a small strip of exceptional deficit is expected along Angola’s southern coast. Deficits also trace paths along rivers in South Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, and Kenya. Surpluses are forecast for the White Nile basin in southeastern Sudan into South Sudan, and are expected to slowly diminish in extent through June while transitioning to conditions of both surplus and deficit. Surpluses are forecast to persist in Gabon and Congo.

The forecast for January through March shows continued improvement, with moderate to occasionally severe water deficits across northern Africa, a scattered band of both deficits and surpluses across the Sahel, and primarily abnormal to moderate deficits in southern Africa. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast in northwestern Nigeria. Water surpluses indicated in West Africa in prior months are forecast to transition to conditions of both surplus and deficit.

The forecast for March through May shows an increase in the severity of deficits across northern Africa.

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


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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