South Asia: Intense water deficits to persist in central India

29 November 2017

The 12-month forecast ending July 2018 indicates intense water deficits in India’s central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh trailing north into Uttarakhand, west along the Narmada River, east along the Mahanadi River, and south through Maharashtra into Telangana.

Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for Afghanistan and southern Pakistan, with more intense deficits in southeast Pakistan.

Exceptional surpluses are expected in Bangladesh, western Bhutan, and the Indian states of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Andhra Pradesh. Surpluses of varying intensity are forecast in Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, West Bengal, and western Maharashtra in India; and Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Drought in Sri Lanka this year - the worst in 40 years according to the UN - has accelerated internal migration from rural to urban areas. Overall, the nation's harvest is expected to fall 50 percent, with rice production estimated to be the worst in a decade. Sri Lanka's department of agriculture reports that last season over 200,000 acres out of 540,000 planted were lost to drought and floods. In an effort to lure farmers back, the federal government has halved the price of rice seed.

Pakistan is facing a 36 percent shortage in water requirements, and because it has a limited storage capacity of only 30 days, watches helplessly as about $20 billion worth of much-needed water drains out to the sea, says the Indus River System Authority. Water levels are falling by one meter each year in Islamabad and six meters in Balochistan. Population increase and climate change are adding pressure to an already-strained system and demand for bottled water is on the rise due to widespread contamination from arsenic and bacteria.

Widows in India - of whom there are more than 46 million, the highest in the world - struggle to claim property rights and frequently endure abuse and threats after the death of their husbands by suicide, a not uncommon occurrence in drought-ravaged farm communities. And though some state governments, such as Maharashtra, offer programs of debt forgiveness and subsidized loans and insurance, these benefits are often denied to widows according to a report published by advocacy group Housing and Lands Rights Network.

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

As seen in the map progression below, the forecast for India indicates the persistence of intense water deficits in the central state of Madhya Pradesh through April 2018. The near-term forecast, November through January shows persistent exceptional deficits in southwestern Karnataka, and emerging deficits across northern India which may be exceptional in northern Rajasthan and in Haryana and Punjab. As Gujarat transitions away from surplus, conditions of both surplus and deficit (shown in purple) are forecast. Exceptional surpluses will persist during this period in the northeastern states of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Nagaland, as well as in eastern Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and southwest Andhra Pradesh. Surpluses of lesser intensity are forecast for western Maharashtra along the Krishna River and in Sri Lanka.

Elsewhere in the region intense surpluses remain in the forecast for Bangladesh, western Bhutan, and Nepal. Moderate deficits are forecast for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

From February through April deficits will diminish in extent and severity overall but severe to exceptional deficits will persist in central India and western Karnataka. Mild to moderate deficits are forecast for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Conditions of both deficit and surplus (purple) are forecast for Gujarat, the Krishna River in western Maharashtra, and southwest Andhra Pradesh. Exceptional surpluses will persist in Bangladesh, Tripura, Mizoram, West Bengal, and eastern Jammu and Kashmir. Surpluses of varying severity are forecast for Nepal, and primarily moderate surpluses for Sri Lanka.

The forecast for the final period, May through July 2018, indicates mild deficits throughout the region. Some surpluses are expected to re-emerge in Andhra Pradesh.

(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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