Africa: Water deficits forecast across the North, Somalia, Gabon

28 March 2017

The Big Picture
Widespread severe to exceptional water deficits remain in the 12-month forecast for northern Africa. Exceptional deficits are also forecast for southern Gabon, northeastern Mozambique, and much of Madagascar.

Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast across Africa’s mid-section including Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, southwest Kenya, and western Tanzania.

Surpluses are forecast in western Zambia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, and in northern South Africa.

The humanitarian impacts of drought in Somalia continue to dominate the news - The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the country is at risk of its third famine in 25 years. But many other African nations are facing drought hardship as well.

Nearby in Kenya, drought-related violence has led to the death of 13 people, many of them women and children, from tribal rivalries among herdsmen or conflicts between semi-nomadic herdsmen poaching farm land in search of animal pasture. Though cattle raids and associated violence are common in the nomadic tribes of northern Kenya, drought has further fueled historical grievances, prompting Kenya's president to deploy the military to support local police. 

Activity in Kenya's private sector has slowed to nearly a halt, in part due to drought, according to Markit Stanbic Bank Kenya Purchasing Managers' Index. Drought has driven up food costs and triggered a spike in the country's inflation rate, rising to 9.04 percent year-on-year in February, well above the target range of 2.5 to 7.5 percent.

Democratic Republic of Congo's National Electricity Company says that water levels in the Congo River are at the lowest point in 100 years. The utility warns that hydroelectric production could drop by nearly half if river levels fall too low, impacting many sectors of the economy, particularly the mining industry. DRC is Africa's biggest copper producer.

Water restrictions have been lifted in South Africa's Gauteng Province in the north as recent rains lifted dam levels to 100 percent capacity for the first time in 6 years, providing relief for the capital Pretoria, and economic hub Johannesburg. Western Cape, however, remains in crippling drought, and the Department of Water and Sanitation has imposed 10 percent additional water restrictions on the agricultural sector which will remain in effect until dams reach 85 percent of capacity. Cape Town, the heart of South Africa's tourism industry, has 100 days before it runs out of water. The mayor has declared a disaster and water restrictions are in effect. 

Heavy rains spinning off from a cyclone led to flooding in Botswana that collapsed bridges, washed away roads and railway lines, closed some border posts to South Africa, destroyed 500 homes, and displaced 300 households. Flooding also hit Zimbabwe on the heels of drought, killing 246 people, bursting 70 dams, destroying 74 schools, and leaving over 2,000 homeless in 10 provinces in the south and west. Smuggling syndicates took advantage of the swollen Limpopo River to traffic illegal workers and banned commodities into South Africa.

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

Though the extent of exceptional deficits across the continent will diminish from March through May, severe to exceptional deficits will continue to emerge across northern Africa, affecting Mauritania, northern Mali, Algeria, Niger, Libya, northern Chad, Egypt, and much of Sudan. Deficits are expected to be exceptional and widespread in Niger.

Exceptional deficits are also forecast to emerge during this period in southern Somalia, and continue to emerge in southern Gabon. Exceptional deficits will diminish considerably in Madagascar but persist in its westernmost region. Moderate to occasionally exceptional deficits are expected in Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast across Africa’s mid-section in: southeastern Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Angola, Uganda, western Tanzania, Kenya, and northeastern Mozambique.

Surpluses are expected along the White Nile in southeast Sudan and into South Sudan. Surpluses are also forecast in southern Africa through the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana into western Zambia; Zimbabwe; and northern South Africa, particularly south of the Botswana border.

From June through August deficits across northern Africa are forecast to recede slightly, diminishing in Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, though moderate to exceptional deficits will persist in northeastern Niger. The intensity of deficits will increase in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, and northern Sudan. Nearly all of Egypt is expected to experience extreme to exceptional deficit. Mostly moderate deficits are expected to persist across Africa’s mid-section. Severe to extreme deficits are forecast to emerge in southern Angola while moderate deficits persist in the north. Deficits will also emerge in Somaliland, Ethiopia, and northern Cameroon, and will linger in western Madagascar.

Surpluses are forecast to persist in southern Zambia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, and northern South Africa, though both deficits and surpluses may appear in Zambia and Botswana.

The forecast for the final months of the 12-month period – September through November – shows a pattern of water anomalies similar to the prior three months.

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


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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