South Asia: Exceptional water deficits to persist in Karnataka, Kerala

November 16, 2016

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

At the end of October the southern Indian state of Kerala declared drought, with all 14 of its districts facing severe water scarcity. Even if rainfall over the next two months is 100 percent Kerala's Minister of Revenue is projecting a 30 percent shortfall in water reserves.

In northern India drought threatens the dairy industry in Punjab, one of the highest milk-producing states in the country. Nestlé, Danone, and GlaxoSmithKline are among the companies who source from thousands of dairy farmers in the region, many of whom face increasing expenses for fodder as drought takes its toll. Groundwater over-extraction has exacerbated the situation.

Consecutive droughts in Afghanistan have left only 10 percent of its land farmable, according to a United Nations Development Programme expert. About 80 percent of the Afghan economy is based on agriculture, and farmers depend on surface water from melting snow to irrigate crops and water livestock. After two winters without snow a Hindu Kush proverb - "Kabul can be without gold but not without snow" - is beginning to ring true. Without water to sustain livelihoods rural populations are desperate and susceptible to militant recruitment says Kazim Hamayun, deputy director of Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency.

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

Exceptional deficits observed in southern India, shown in the August through October map, are forecast to persist in Karnataka and Kerala but diminish in the southeastern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, though moderate to extreme deficits will persist. Exceptional deficits are forecast to emerge across northern India in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Haryana, and into Rajasthan; and in coastal Gujarat. Moderate to severe deficits will begin to emerge along Andhra Pradesh’s northern coast. Exceptional water surpluses in the Chambal River basin of Rajasthan, India are forecast to diminish and transition to conditions of both deficit and surplus, though exceptional surpluses will continue to emerge along the Banas River. Surpluses will persist in western Jharkhand, India, and in Nepal, Bangladesh and western Myanmar. Sri Lanka is expected to transition from both deficits and surpluses to primarily moderate deficits.

Exceptional deficits are expected to emerge in northern Balochistan, Pakistan and moderate to severe deficits will emerge across southern Pakistan. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for western Afghanistan, and both deficits and surpluses are forecast in the eastern half of the country.

From February through April severe to exceptional deficits will emerge throughout Gujarat, India. Deficits in southern India will diminish in severity but not in extent. Surpluses will persist in the Chambal River Basin and will emerge in the Ganges Basin. Surpluses will also persist in Nepal’s eastern two-thirds, and in Bangladesh. Surpluses in western Myanmar will transition to both deficits and surpluses.

In the final months of the forecast, May through July, moderate deficits are forecast for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

(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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