Middle East: Water deficits persist, esp Syria, Iraq west of Euphrates, & SW Yemen

October 25, 2016

The Big Picture
Severe to exceptional deficits are forecast for much of Syria, Jordan, Iraq along the Euphrates River and west, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, as the 12-month map (below) illustrates. Deficits are also forecast for many other parts of the Middle East.

A dust storm attributed to drought in Iran and Iraq forced the closure of government offices, universities, and schools in Ahwaz, Khuzestan Province in western Iran, on October 1. Dust storms have become common in Khuzestan Province over the last several years, as well as in Ilam, Luristan, and Kermanshah Provinces.

Much attention has been drawn to Iran's Lake Urmia (Orumiyeh), which has lost 90 percent of its surface area since the 1970s. Some cite it as a source of dust storms which could put the health of 14 million people at risk. A social media campaign - "I am Lake Urmia" - has been launched with celebrity endorsements to urge the UN to find ways to revive the lake.

The US Department of Agriculture's Global Information Network has reduced its forecast for Turkey's 2016/2017 wheat production due to drought in Central Anatolia. Estimates for the current season are now 17.25 million tonnes, down from 19.5 million tonnes in 2015/2016.

Forecast Breakdown
The overall progression of water anomalies forecast through June 2017 – shown in the 3-month composites below – indicates that widespread water deficits will persist throughout the Middle East, but the severity of deficits will diminish considerably through March before becoming more severe again April through June, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula.

As the October through December map illustrates exceptional deficits remain in the forecast for southwestern Yemen. Though exceptional deficits are no longer in the forecast for Turkey, an increase in the extent of moderate to severe deficits is forecast, emerging farther north and east. Similarly, in Iran though the severity of deficits will diminish, moderate deficits are forecast to emerge in the northwest near Turkey, and some areas of former surplus are forecast to transition as deficits emerge. Primarily severe deficits are forecast for Syria and for Iraq from the Euphrates west. Moderate deficits are forecast for much of the rest of the Middle East during this period.

From January through March deficits are expected to diminish in severity and extent throughout the Middle East, though abnormal to moderate deficits are still expected. Deficits may be more severe in western Georgia and near Istanbul.

After March deficits are forecast to re-emerge with greater severity across the Middle East, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula.

(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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