Europe: Water surplus forecast for UK, Ireland, Poland, Slovenia

19 October 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast ending June 2018 indicates widespread moderate to extreme water deficits across Southern Europe from the Iberian Peninsula, across the Mediterranean, through the Balkan Peninsula, reaching exceptional severity in eastern Ukraine. Deficits of similar intensity are forecast for Finland, Estonia, Latvia, southern Sweden, and along the Norwegian Sea coast.

Severe to exceptional water surpluses are forecast in western Russia and central United Kingdom, along with surpluses of varying intensity in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, northern Poland, and pockets of southern Norway and northern Sweden.

Hurricane Ophelia, the easternmost Category 3 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, downgraded to Storm Ophelia as it struck Ireland and the UK in mid-October. With wind gusts up to 119 mph, Ophelia knocked out power to 360,000, killed 3 people, blew off roofs, closed schools, canceled 150 flights, and whipped up 10-meter (32.8 foot) waves. Early cost estimates of the damage are between €500m and €800m ($590-$940 million), and additional millions of euros in disruption.

On the Iberian Peninsula Ophelia fanned the flames of wildfires in Portugal that claimed 35 lives, making 2017 the country's deadliest fire year on record. Prolonged drought in the region has exacerbated fire conditions. Fires in northwestern Spain killed four and forced the evacuation of thousands from Galicia. 

After a dry summer and fall some communities in northwest Italy are facing a shortage of drinking water. In the Piedmont Region three municipalities in the province of Turin reported shortages in mid-September, and SMAT, the Italian water utility company, is currently deploying water tankers to 13 other municipalities in the province. If dry weather continues for another 10 days, 40 more could be in water crisis. Some 50 communities in the nearby provinces of Asti and Alessandria have asked Piedmont regional authorities to recognize a state of emergency. In the Emiglia-Romana Region, some 30 municipalities have been in crisis since May.

Across southern France drought has the agricultural community worried. Météo-France, the country's meteorological service, reports that September rainfall deficits in the southeast exceeded 60 percent. Withered grazing land and heat have reduced goat milk output and stopped cheese production in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Livestock breeders in Ardèche, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes talk about how "winter began in July," referring to hay purchases due to lack of pasture, costs not normally incurred this early in the season. The chestnut harvest in Ardèche - which accounts for half the country's production - is expected to fall by 50 to 80 percent. On September 27, one of the reservoirs serving residents of Ruffieux, Savoie dried up, leaving part of the town without drinking water before bottled water and tankers were brought in. Some watersheds in Languedoc-Roussillon region are at crisis level with water restrictions in place.

Citing "increasing claims-burden as a result of climate-related damage," the Dutch Central Bank is tasking banks, insurers, and other financial institutions to address climate risks, and will put in place climate stress tests and embed climate risk discussion in its supervisory role with institutions.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month time period show the evolving conditions.

As is clear in the map progression, the extent of exceptional water deficits is expected to nearly disappear from October on, though pockets of exceptional deficit remain in the forecast through December in central Finland and along the Norwegian Sea coast. The near term forecast also indicates moderate to severe deficits for the remainder of Finland. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for the Iberian Peninsula, southern France, Italy west of Milan and south of Naples, northern Corsica, Sardinia, and the southern Balkan Peninsula.

A vast expanse of surpluses is forecast to persist in European Russia from Murmansk to Moscow and may be exceptional in a large block from Latvia to Lake Onega to Rybinsk Reservoir, and in northern Karelia. Exceptional surpluses are also predicted down the center of Poland, with surpluses of varying intensity radiating outward. Moderate to severe surpluses are forecast for southern Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, northern UK, southern Norway, Netherlands, and central and southwestern Germany.

From January through March surpluses are forecast to increase across Northern Europe, particularly in European Russia where the large block of exceptional surpluses will continue to expand. Moderate to extreme surpluses are forecast to persist in the UK, Poland, and Austria; to emerge in Norway, Sweden, southern Finland, the Baltics, Czech Republic (Czechia), and Switzerland; and to retreat from Slovenia and Croatia. Water deficits may diminish somewhat on the Iberian Peninsula and in southern France, but an uptick in intensity is expected in Italy and the southern Balkan Peninsula.

In the remaining months of the forecast – April through June 2018 – a transition to deficit conditions is forecast for nearly all of Europe.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Note on Administrative Boundaries
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.


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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