Middle East: Exceptional water deficits retreat, but severe deficits remain

26 October 2017

The Big Picture
The forecast for the 12-month period ending June 2018 (below) indicates a distribution pattern of water deficits similar to the forecast issued last month with one significant difference: the current forecast includes widespread severe to exceptional deficits in Turkey and Georgia.

Extreme to exceptional water deficits are also forecast for Syria, Jordan, Iraq west of the Euphrates River, northern Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, southern Oman, and southwestern Yemen.

Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for the remainder of the Arabian Peninsula, Lebanon, Israel, West Bank, and Iran.

Israel's Water Authority warns that the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake, is approaching its lowest level ever recorded. Drought in northern Israel has left water tables with a deficit equivalent to one million Olympic-size swimming pools, and if the region doesn't receive 85 percent of winter average rainfall, water sources will simply dry up. With five desalination plants to provide drinking water, Israel stopped pumping water from the Sea of Galilee two years ago. But the lake remains the country's only source of fresh water should desalination fail.

After the Iraqi Army retook Mosul from the Islamic State on July 9, the United Nations Environment Programme began its damage assessment. The catalog of destruction included water infrastructure - pipelines, dams, canals - and water pollution from oil and other toxic substances. An initial survey by Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources estimates damage to water infrastructure alone will total at least $600 million. Intellectual environment assets were also among the victims of the conflict: computers, labs, equipment, and archives of the Niniveh Environment Directorate were in ruins.

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

Exceptional water deficits are forecast to nearly disappear after September leaving primarily moderate or severe deficits across the region, as shown in the October through December map. However, more intense deficits remain in the forecast for a few regions. Severe to exceptional deficits are expected in Georgia; along Turkey’s northern coast; surrounding the city of Basrah, Iraq; western Yazd Province, Iran; and eastern Yemen. Severe deficits are forecast for the Euphrates River.

Overall, water deficits will continue to diminish in extent and intensity from January through March, with mild to moderate deficits throughout much of the region. Western Georgia, however, will continue to experience severe to exceptional deficits, and moderate to severe deficits are forecast for Turkey, particularly in the west.

The forecast for the final quarter indicates an increase in the extent and intensity of deficits in the region, particularly on the Arabian Peninsula.

(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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