South Asia: Widespread water deficits forecast in India, esp Madhya Pradesh & Karnataka

19 December 2017


The 12-month forecast ending August 2018 (above) indicates exceptional surpluses in Bangladesh, India’s far eastern states, and the Pennar River Basin in southern India. Surpluses of generally lesser intensity are forecast for West Bengal, central Gujarat, central Maharashtra, the western stretch of the Krishna River, Nepal, and western Bhutan.

Water deficits of varying severity are forecast for much of the remainder of India and may be extreme in the western Ganges Basin and around the border of Telangana and Maharashtra. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Afghanistan, and more intense deficits are forecast in southern Sindh, Pakistan from Karachi past Hyderabad.

Cyclone Ockhi ravaged the southern tip of India in early December, killing dozens and causing extensive damages in the southwestern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Sri Lanka, the storm killed at least 13 people and destroyed nearly 700 homes. Nearly 100 Indian fishermen were still missing as of December 11, leaving their families in shelters and without income. 

Successive droughts and floods have contracted Sri Lanka’s agricultural production this quarter, slowing overall economic growth to 3.3 percent from 4 percent in the preceding quarter. The agricultural sector alone has reported negative growth rates over the last seven quarters.

Solar irrigation projects in Nepal are reporting successes in helping local farmers cope with increased drought conditions over recent decades. In a collaboration with three NGOs, farmers in 21 villages of Nepal adopted “climate-smart agriculture”, using solar-powered pumps to access ground water. Still, scarcity of drinking water troubles Nepali residents, who pleaded in December with recently-elected state assembly members for solutions to dry water taps.

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

As is apparent in the map progression above, the forecast for India indicates the persistence of intense water deficits in central India and intense water surpluses in Bangladesh through May 2018.

The near-term forecast, December through February, shows deficits throughout much of India, with extreme to exceptional deficits in eastern Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka. Exceptional surpluses are expected to persist in West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram in the far east, and eastern Jammu and Kashmir in the north. Intense surpluses will also persist in the Pennar River Basin in southern India with some areas of both deficit and surplus as deficits emerge. Likewise, both deficits and surpluses are forecast in Gujarat. Moderate deficits are forecast for Pakistan and Afghanistan with some pockets of exceptional deficit in the northeast. Surpluses of varying severity are forecast for western Bhutan and much of Nepal, with both deficits and surpluses in western Nepal.

From March through May the basic distribution of water anomalies in India is expected to remain much the same but with some downgrade in severity and extent: Deficits in the northwest – Rajasthan – will become mild, and some areas in the east – southern Chhattisgarh, southern Odisha, and Jharkhand – will return to normal. Primarily mild deficits are forecast during this period for Afghanistan and Pakistan, though more intense deficits are expected to emerge in Sindh, Pakistan, particularly from Karachi through the Indus Delta. Exceptional surpluses are forecast to persist in western Bangladesh but surpluses in the east should moderate, as well as in Tripura and Mizoram, India.

The forecast for the final period, June through August 2018, indicates a significant downgrade of anomalies in the region and a transition to moderate surplus in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.

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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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