South Asia: Exceptional water deficits Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odisha, & Gujarat

31 January 2017

The Big Picture
Water deficits are forecast for much of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and western Afghanistan, as seen in the 12-month forecast (below), including exceptional deficits in India’s south, north, and far east. Exceptional surpluses are forecast in western Myanmar, and surpluses of varying severity are forecast in central Nepal and southern Bangladesh.

Residents along the disputed border between Pakistan and India in Jammu and Kashmir are accustomed to dodging bullets, but now drought has added yet another threat. State-wide drought - the longest in a decade in a region dependent on rainfall for agriculture - impeded winter crop cultivation, forcing farmers to purchase food and fodder. Some farmers report harvests one-third of what was anticipated, and low water flow has also impacted water-powered milling capacity. Reduced snowpack has contributed to water shortage. Where 2-3 feet of snow were common a few decades ago, villagers report just inches annually in recent years.

The state government of Tamil Nadu in southeastern India has declared all districts drought-hit, paving the way for state assistance, insurance compensation, tax waivers, and loan conversions. Seventeen farmer suicides have been reported in the past two months.

According to a new study led by the Indian Institute of Technology changing rainfall patterns, linked to the warming of the Indian Ocean, are a greater driver of change in groundwater storage than the pumping of groundwater for agriculture.

In Karachi, Pakistan protesters blocked a road causing major traffic disruption to call attention to lack of water and electricity. The province of Sindh, where Karachi is located, has been facing a water shortage and earlier in the month all three barrages in the region were reportedly at a 30 percent deficit. The local water board has been accused of corruption in a scheme involving the illegal sale of water.

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

 As the January through March map above indicates, the forecast for India includes widespread exceptional deficits persisting in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Odisha, and emerging throughout Gujarat. Deficits ranging from moderate to extreme are forecast for much of the remainder of the country. Surpluses may persist in northwest Jharkhand and West Bengal. The following areas are forecast to transition to both surplus and deficit (shown in purple and pink) as deficits begin to emerge in areas of previous surplus: the Banas and Chambal watersheds in southern Rajasthan; the Godavari and Krishna watersheds in Maharashtra; northeastern Madhya Pradesh; and Chhattisgarh.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast for central and eastern Nepal, and southern and eastern Bangladesh. Exceptional deficits in Pakistan are expected to nearly disappear during this period; moderate deficits will persist in western Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

From April through June deficits in India will diminish considerably in extent and severity, with primarily moderate deficits forecast for southern India. However, exceptional deficits are forecast for northwest Gujarat and across the border into Pakistan; severe to extreme deficits are expected in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh; and deficits will continue to emerge in Bhutan. Moderate to exceptional surpluses are forecast along the Banas and Chambal Rivers.

The final months of the forecast – July through September – show primarily moderate deficits in the region.

(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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