Africa: Widespread water deficits to persist across North Africa & southern Africa

The Big Picture
Exceptional and widespread water deficits forecast across North Africa are evident in the 12-month map for April 2016 through March 2017 (below). Deficits of varying severity are also expected in many other parts of the continent including Nigeria, eastern Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and throughout southern African, with exceptional severity in southern Namibia. Surpluses are expected in eastern Tanzania.

Efforts to aid Ethiopia in its recovery from an 18-month dry spell have been severely compromised by recent flooding. Ethiopia's National Flood task force estimates that 690,000 people have been affected and 320,000 displaced. Livestock-dependent households have been particularly affected - 55,000 hectares of land, much of it pasture, has flooded and thousands of livestock have died. Recovery for these households could be 2 to 4 years, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.

In southern Africa, the United Nations World Food Programme will need $730 million for drought relief over the next 12 months in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Madagascar, Swaziland and Zambia.

Corn production in Zimbabwe has dropped 43 percent, and hunger and economic conditions prompted anti-government protests and a "stay away day" strike, both rarities in the country, a sign of what protest leaders are calling a "nothing to lose" sentiment across the nation.

Forecast Breakdown
Though the extent of exceptional deficits (greater than 40 year return period) across North Africa is forecast to shrink, as seen in the progression of 3-month maps below, many areas will remain in notable conditions of deficit from July through September including: Morocco; Algeria; northern Niger; much of Libya, particularly its coastal areas; Egypt; and northern Sudan. Both deficits and surpluses are expected in Algeria. Deficits will persist in much of Africa’s southern half, with extreme deficits (20 to 40 year expected frequency of occurrence) forecast to persist in northern Zambia through November. Exceptional deficits are expected to emerge in central Botswana and in South Africa near Botswana. Water surpluses are forecast to persist through October in Tanzania and northeastern Mozambique.

From October through December the extent of deficits across the North will remain the same but the overall severity will continue to diminish. Some pockets of extreme deficits will persist. Deficits in southern Africa will also diminish in severity with no exceptional deficits forecast during this period. Much of Africa, however, will remain in deficit.

In the final months of the forecast period abnormal to moderate water deficits in the Sudanian Savannah – a broad east/west belt south of the Sahel – are expected to become more severe.

(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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