Middle East: Widespread deficits forecast to persist, esp Israel & Lebanon

20 December 2017


The forecast for the 12-month period ending August 2018 (above) indicates water deficits throughout the region with exceptional deficits in United Arab Emirates. Extreme deficits with some pockets of exceptional deficit are forecast for Lebanon, Israel, West Bank, Syria, Iraq west of the Euphrates, northern Saudi Arabia, and central Iran.

Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for Turkey and for much of the Arabian Peninsula. Primarily mild deficits are expected in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. 

The head of the Iranian Environment Department commented this month that without a 90 to 95 percent reduction in agricultural water use, mass emigration from Iran will take place, causing catastrophe to its 8,000 year old civilization. The country’s Sixth Development Plan, approved earlier this year, fails to address devastating impacts on the country's soil and water resources, says the official, increasing strain without considering sustainable solutions.

The worst drought in 40 years, combined with wartime atrocities, is pushing Syrian peasants to abandon their agricultural livelihoods and seek refuge in cities. Half of the country’s wells are damaged or destroyed, and lack of functioning water infrastructure has driven peasants from their rural farms. The price of food has risen 800 percent since the start of the war in 2011.

The United Arab Emirates may be transitioning its public landscaping away from water-intensive exotic flora to more native, drought-tolerant plants. Current landscaping practices strain dwindling supplies from aquifers and require desalination and fertilizers. The Abu Dhabi 2030 urban master plan has set a target that at least four-fifths of landscaped areas must be comprised of native plants.

Though the season's rainfall arrived late in Jordan, it was a welcome answer to Istiskaa prayers, a Muslim prayer for rain. The much-needed precipitation assuaged drought-like conditions, sparing farmers production losses, washing dusty fruit on olive farms to insure higher quality oil, and reviving natural pastures important for livestock fodder. Additional rainfall will be needed, however, to replenish reservoirs.

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


As is apparent in the map series, widespread exceptional deficits observed in the prior three months are expected to moderate considerably through February. However, extreme deficits – normally occurring once in 20 to 40 years – are forecast for Lebanon and Israel. Deficits of slightly lesser intensity, though still severe, are forecast for southeastern Turkey, Syria, pockets throughout Iraq, central Iran, northern Saudi Arabia, and southwestern Yemen. Primarily moderate deficits are expected in much of Iran, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and southern Saudi Arabia.

After February, deficits on the Arabian Peninsula are expected to ratchet up in intensity, increasing the extent of severe deficits overall as well as the extent of extreme deficits from central Saudi Arabia to the Iraqi border. Primarily moderate deficits will continue to emerge in Turkey in a widespread pattern throughout the south and west, with a small pocket of moderate surplus in the northeast. Deficits in Lebanon and Israel will downgrade slightly during this period, but will still be severe (normally occurring once in 10 to 20 years). Moderate deficits will begin to emerge in Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The forecast for the final quarter indicates an increase in the extent and intensity of deficits in the region.

(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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