Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean: Water surplus to persist in Honduras & El Salvador

25 October 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast ending June 2018 (below) indicates severe to exceptional deficits in western Cuba and in isolated pockets of Nayarit and Michoacán, Mexico; severe deficits in Tamaulipas; and moderate deficits in Baja and scattered across northern Mexico.

Surpluses are forecast for southeastern Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, northern Costa Rica, Panama, central Cuba, and Jamaica. 

Though high-impact storms have always been part of the natural cycle in the Caribbean, this season's one-two punch from Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria within a two-week period in September has been especially devastating. Insured losses alone from Hurricane Irma are now estimated at $32-$52 billion for the Caribbean and US, and $40-85 billion from Hurricane Maria, according to catastrophe-modeling firm AIR Worldwide. And with many properties uninsured, overall damages are expected to be much higher.

Though some Caribbean resort areas were relatively unscathed by the storms, infrastructure damage will certainly delay the flow of important tourism dollars needed to fund long-term recovery. Travel and tourism account for more than 15 percent of GDP overall in the Caribbean - with 34 percent in Dominica, 57 percent in Anguilla, and 60 percent in Antigua and Barbuda - contributing $56 billion to the region's economy last year and supporting 2.3 million jobs.

In early October Tropical Storm Nate hit Central America, causing flooding that resulted in 28 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama.

Torrential rainfall of up to 200 mm (7.9 inches) in northeastern Mexico flooded the Nuevo Laredo-Monterrey Highway from Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas to Sabinas Hidalgo, Nueva Leon, stranding hundreds of motorists, some for nearly 12 hours. Police used boats to rescue 40 people.

Extremely dry conditions in eastern Campeche on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula have forced a few of the more than 1,000 jaguars that inhabit the Calakmul biosphere reserve to search for water in nearby populated communities.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

Please note that we are well aware of the recent devastation wrought by hurricanes. Readers are advised that inputs used in our Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM), the model used to generate “Global Water Monitor and Forecast Watch List,” have been proven reliable in forecasting broad precipitation patterns, but are not effective for predicting singular events such as tropical storms. Detailed outlooks and analyses of tropical storms are available from NOAA National Hurricane Center.

The October through December forecast indicates a significant retreat of exceptional deficits in Cuba. In Mexico, deficits are expected to diminish in intensity in Tamaulipas, leaving moderate to severe deficits. Deficits of similar severity will continue to emerge in pockets of northern Mexico and moderate deficits are expected to emerge in parts of Yucatan.

While the overall extent of exceptional surpluses in Central America is expected to shrink, surpluses ranging from moderate to exceptional remain in the forecast for: southeastern Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, northern Costa Rica, Jamaica, central Cuba, and Haiti. Surpluses may be especially intense in Honduras. Some pockets of exceptional surplus are also forecast for northern Coahuila and northern Nuevo Leon, Mexico, along with pockets of moderate to severe surplus scattered throughout the central part of the country, particularly along the Pacific coast.

After December primarily moderate deficits will continue to emerge in Mexico’s northern bulk but deficits may be severe in southern Tamaulipas and southeast Chihuahua into Coahuila. Some aforementioned surpluses in Mexico will transition to both deficit and surplus as deficits move in, but surpluses of varying severity are expected to persist during this time in Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca. Surpluses are expected to persist in many parts of Central America but will begin to transition to deficits in El Salvador and parts of the Caribbean.

The forecast for the final three months – April through June – shows the emergence of deficits on the Baja and Yucatan Peninsulas.

(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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