The Big Picture
The 12-month composite map (below) shows a variety of water conditions in the Mideast, though water deficits remain the dominate factor. Deficits are forecast across southern Turkey, Cyprus, much of Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and western Oman. Deficits of varying severity are forecast across Saudi Arabia and in Yemen as well, but both deficits and surpluses are predicted in some areas. Surpluses are forecast along the Iraq-Iran border and in a few pockets on Oman’s coast.*

All wheat production will cease this year in Saudi Arabia and other water intensive crops are being phased out. The reason - depleted water resources. In 2008 the Kingdom abandoned its 30-year program intended to achieve wheat self-sufficiency. Saudi Arabia's largest dairy company is now exporting "virtual water" back home in the form of hay from land it purchased in California and Arizona.

The Tigris-Euphrates Basin (Turkey/Syria/Iraq) is losing water faster than any other place on the planet except northern India according to research based on data from the GRACE mission (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) operated jointly by NASA (US) and DLR (Germany). The connection between water scarcity and societal conflict in the Middle East has been widely discussed by security analysts. As reported by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Resident Representative Gary Lewis on March 22: "In Iraq, the absence of a strong government combined with drought and rapidly-shrinking aquifers seem somehow related to a spate of assassinations of irrigation department officials and clashes between rural clans. Some observers say that these local feuds could easily escalate into full-scale armed conflicts in the future."

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions. After widespread and exceptional water deficits in March in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, deficits are expected to diminish in severity in April with both deficits and surpluses in some areas. Deficits in southern Turkey will persist through September and spread north, while surpluses in eastern Turkey diminish and transition to deficits in some areas. Deficits will continue to emerge in United Arab Emirates in the coming months with greatest severity July through September. Deficits are forecast to emerge along the extent of the Euphrates River through Syria and Iraq from October through December.

Surpluses along the Iraq-Iran border and in Iran along the Caspian Sea are forecast to diminish. (It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

* Please note that effective March 28, 2016 NOAA changed the initialization procedure for CFSv2 to address issues with unrealistically cold sea surface temperatures in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean. As a result, this month's Watch List is based on an ensemble of 14 CFSv2 forecasts issued after this fix was implemented instead of the normal 28. For more information see and


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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