South Asia: Water deficits forecast in Gujarat, surpluses in eastern Afghanistan

28 March 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast (below) indicates water deficits dominating much of India with some pockets of extreme deficits in southern India, Odisha and eastern Bhutan. Moderate deficits are forecast for Sri Lanka and western Baluchistan, Pakistan.

Surpluses are forecast for eastern Afghanistan, and Jammu and Kashmir, India.

The Ganges and Yamuna rivers have been granted the same rights as a human in the eyes of the law by the High Court in India's northern state of Uttarakhand, meaning that if anyone harms or pollutes them the law would view it as no different from harming a person. Three officials have been appointed legal custodians to protect the rivers and their tributaries. Nearly 19 million Delhi residents depend on the Yamuna, a tributary of the Ganges, for their drinking water. 

As of early March water levels in India's 91 major reservoirs were at 41 percent of capacity, with the 31 reservoirs in the southern region reporting the worst. Tamil Nadu has been especially hard hit with state reservoirs at 20 percent of capacity. In the delta district alone 80,000 hectares (197,674 acres) of crops have been lost. Since October 254 farmer suicides have been reported in the state. The government has offered some compensation but distraught Tamil Nadu farmers traveled all the way to Delhi where they staged a sit-in.

The drought has also been severe in Kerala causing crop damage to 30,353 hectares (75,000 acres) of agricultural land. Coconut cultivation in the state has dropped 30 to 35 percent, according to the Executive Director of the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management. Public pressure and government-issued water restrictions forced PepsiCo's Kerala bottling plant to cease production in early February.

Population increase and drought has resulted in a shortage of water in Kabul. More than 4.6 million people now live in Afghanistan's capital city - 3.6 million more than planned for - forcing residents to dig unregulated wells even deeper as the water table drops.

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

The March through May forecast indicates some relief from deficit conditions for many parts of India. Notice the emergence of normal conditions, shown in white, across the country’s mid-section and the reduction in intensity of deficits in the south. However, severe to extreme deficits are forecast to persist in Gujarat, and moderate deficits are forecast in Uttarakhand and in Sri Lanka. Both surpluses and deficits are expected in the Chambal Basin in Rajasthan and surpluses north of the Banas River. Surpluses ranging from moderate to exceptional are forecast for the eastern Ganges Basin, the eastern two-thirds of Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Both deficits and surpluses are expected along the Indus River in Pakistan, with primarily surpluses along its northern tributaries. Surpluses are forecast for much of eastern Afghanistan, with extreme to exceptional surpluses expected. A pocket of exceptional deficit is forecast to persist near Karachi, Pakistan.

The latter six months of the forecast period – June through November – show the emergence of widespread deficits across India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. From June through August moderate to severe deficits will continue to emerge in southern India and will emerge from Madhya Pradesh in central India northward to Himachal Pradesh. Notice the orange path that traces the Yamuna and Ganges Rivers in the north, indicating severe deficits. Deficits are also expected in India’s far northeast, ranging from moderate to extreme. Deficits near Karachi, Pakistan are forecast to disappear during this period, and surpluses in eastern Afghanistan will diminish.

The final months of the forecast – September through November – indicates a forecast 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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