Middle East: Water deficits to persist, though less severe

November 29, 2016

The Big Picture
Though the 12-month forecast (below) indicates widespread water deficits in the region, only a few pockets are expected to be of exceptional severity. Moderate (10 to 20 years) to extreme (20 to 40 years) deficits are forecast throughout the Middle East with some areas of exceptional deficit in Turkey, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, and Iran. Pockets of water surplus are forecast along Turkey’s northeast coast and in Iran and southern Azerbaijan along the Caspian Sea. 

In the longest dry period in northern Israel's history, not a single raindrop has fallen since April forcing farmers to use dwindling water reserves even as reservoirs are drying up. Wildfires are threatening homes in several locations, including Haifa, Jerusalem, and West Bank, with suspicion of politically motivated arson.

The Iranian regime’s official in charge of The 20-year Plan for Management of Deserts claimed that half of Iran has become desert, citing lack of water resource management, destruction of biodiversity, and deforestation. 

In Syria, planting and production of cereal crops such as wheat and barley were at an all-time low as farmers abandoned fields due to rising costs of seed, fertilizer, and fuel. The ongoing political conflict, fighting and insecurity, as well as climate change, are blamed.

Forecast Breakdown
The overall progression of water anomalies forecast through July 2017, shown in the 3-month composites below, indicates that widespread water deficits will persist throughout the Middle East, but these deficits are expected to be less severe from November through April than in the observed conditions of the prior three months (August through October). However, the final months of the forecast show the severity level increasing, especially on the Arabian Peninsula.

Scanning the 3-months maps it is immediately apparent that the November through January forecast indicates a significant improvement over the widespread exceptional water deficits – shown in dark red – of the prior months. However, vast portions of Iran and Saudi Arabia are expected to remain in conditions of moderate to severe water deficits with pockets of greater severity in Yazd and Kerman Provinces in Iran and at the intersection of Tabuk, Hail, and Al Madinah Provinces in northwest Saudi Arabia.

From February through April deficits throughout the region will continue to diminish in severity, though the extent of deficits is expected to increase as deficits emerge in central Yemen. Notice the change in central Yemen from white in the November through January forecast – indicating normal water conditions – to yellow, orange, and red – indicating the emergence of moderate to extreme deficits. In Oman some pockets along the coast are forecast to transition away from surplus to both deficit and surplus, shown in purple.

After April 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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