Europe: Water deficits to persist in the Mediterranean

28 November 2017

The 12-month forecast ending July 2018 indicates widespread water deficits reaching exceptional severity across Southern Europe from the Iberian Peninsula, through France, across the Mediterranean and the Balkan Peninsula, and becoming primarily moderate from Bulgaria through Ukraine. Exceptional deficits are also forecast for Finland, Estonia, south-central Sweden, and along the Norwegian Sea coast.

Severe to exceptional water surpluses are forecast for western Russia, Poland, Kaliningrad, northern United Kingdom, and Ireland, along with surpluses of varying intensity in Wales, central Germany, Lithuania, eastern Belarus, southern Norway, and northern Sweden

Powerful storms raced through Central Europe in late October, bringing torrential rain and winds topping 110mph (177km/h) that left at least six people dead in Germany, Poland, and Czech Republic, and thousands without power. Storm surge at a coastal campground claimed one life, two people were killed when their boat overturned, and others died from traffic accidents and fallen trees. Central Hamburg flooded when the Elbe River overflowed its banks. Elsewhere in Germany rail service was disrupted, a freighter ran aground in the North Sea, and a Lufthansa flight was forced to make an emergency landing. Insurance analytics adviser Aon Benfield estimates losses at €300 million (US $350 million).

Flash floods from heavy rains in November near Athens, Greece, left 16 dead, buses and cars overturned and bouncing like bobbers in the submerged streets, and homes and businesses damaged.

Water-logged soils may delay sowing of winter crops in northern parts of the EU, the European Commission's agri-meteorological bureau warns, particularly in the Baltics. However, in southern Europe exceptionally dry conditions could push planting dates back in France, Italy, and especially Spain and Portugal.

Nearly 94 percent of Portugal is in extreme drought, according to the national weather service, prompting federal officials to consider night-time water rationing or rationing through reduced water pressure. In mid-November, 100 firetrucks began transporting water from one dam to another that normally supplies water to a city of 100,000. October has been the country's most costly wildfire month ever for the insurance industry, with losses estimated at €200 million (US $238 million).

Drought on the Iberian Peninsula has also caused Spanish utility company Iberdrola's hydroelectric production to plummet 58 percent this year through September, contributing to a third quarter profit loss of 8 percent, offset by international and renewables business.

Belarus and Poland have drafted an agreement on transboundary water use and protection, and have discussed joint updating of flood threat and risk maps.

With over a quarter of the Netherlands below sea level and 29 percent vulnerable to river flooding, the Dutch have learned a thing or two about water mitigation engineering over their storied history of dike-building. Exports of water technology have doubled since 2000 and now amount to around €8 billion (US $9.3 billion) a year.

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

As seen in the November through January map, the extent of exceptional water deficits is expected to diminish considerably. However deficits are forecast for Portugal, Spain, France, England, Belgium, Italy, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, and Greece. Deficits may be extreme in southern France, southern Belgium, northwestern Italy, Albania, and northwestern Greece. Exceptional deficits in Finland are expected to downgrade and Finland’s southern coast will transition from deficit to surplus.

Exceptional surpluses will continue to emerge in western Russia and Poland, and will emerge in eastern Romania into Moldova. Extreme surpluses are forecast for Lithuania and into central Latvia; severe to exceptional surpluses in Belarus; and surpluses of generally lesser severity in western Ukraine and along the Dnipro (Dnieper) River, Germany, Czech Republic (Czechia), Austria, northern United Kingdom, Ireland, and southern Norway.

From February through April exceptional surpluses will diminish significantly, but surpluses will remain intense in western Russia and Poland. Surpluses are also forecast during this period for: northern United Kingdom and Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Kaliningrad, the Baltics, Belarus, southern Norway, central Sweden, and southern Finland. Deficit conditions across southern Europe are expected to improve also, but moderate to severe deficits remain in the forecast for Portugal, Spain, the southern coast of France, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, and Greece.

In the remaining months of the forecast – May through July 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.)

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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