Africa: Water deficits across northern Africa

19 December 2016

The Big Picture
The 12-month map for September 2016 through August 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 other parts of Africa and may reach extreme to exceptional severity in southern Somalia, southern Namibia, South Africa, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Surpluses are forecast surrounding Bangui in Central African Republic, and southeast Sudan into South Sudan.

Though dam levels in South Africa increased to 49.3 percent as of early December, levels remained well below last year’s average of 60.7 percent. Across southern Africa drought has depleted food stocks and left an estimated 13.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Lack of rainfall has affected other parts of the continent as well. Uganda’s government will divert funds earmarked for road projects to help mitigate drought-related food insecurity. Kenya has instituted a water rationing program for Nairobi in response to low levels at the Ndakaini Dam, and anticipates exceeding the 21.5 billion shillings ($208.7 million) budgeted for drought relief. Ethiopia estimates that $929.9 million is needed following drought that has affected 5.6 million people.

Forecast Breakdown
In clear contrast to observed conditions in southern Africa in prior months, the December through February map (below) indicates the near-absence of exceptional deficits in the south.

The severity of deficits across the northern half of the continent will diminish considerably during this period, and scattered pockets of both deficit and surplus will persist. Pockets of extreme deficits will persist in eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, and extreme to exceptional deficits will emerge in northern Benin, northwestern Nigeria, and near Gashaka Gumti National Park in eastern Nigeria. Moderate to extreme deficits will persist in eastern Central African Republic and in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and will emerge in Rwanda and Burundi. Exceptional surpluses and both deficits and surpluses are forecast around the White Nile in southeast Sudan into South Sudan. Exceptional surpluses are forecast surrounding Bangui in Central African Republic.

The March through May map shows a forecast of improved conditions in the Horn of Africa, in the southern half of the continent, and in Benin and Nigeria. However, moderate to exceptional deficits are forecast to emerge in much of Niger, in northern Sudan, and in Egypt.

The forecast for the final months of the forecast period – June through August – shows an increase in the severity of deficits across northern Africa and the resurgence of moderate deficits in southern Somalia and southern 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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