Europe: Water deficits forecast for Europe

22 May 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast through January 2018 indicates a predominance of water deficits of varying severity in Western, Central, Northern Europe, and the Baltics, which may reach exceptional severity in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia.

Exceptional water surpluses are forecast in western European Russia, and eastern Romania and Moldova. Surpluses of lesser severity are forecast in northeastern Poland, Kaliningrad, southern Belarus, and northwestern Ukraine.

Dryness in the spring is becoming more common in Finland, according to the Finnish Meteorological Society, increasing the risk of wildfires. Dozens of wildfires have been reported in Southern Finland this spring where drought has persisted.

Sweden experienced its driest year in 40 years during 2016, prompting water restrictions in some municipalities. South and southeastern parts of the country have been particularly dry with little rain or snow during winter and spring, and a dry summer and fall left lakes levels so low in the municipality of Örebro that residents are being urged to conserve water.

Spain's Union of Small Farmers and Ranchers (UPA - La Unión de Pequeños Agricultores y Ganaderos) is calling the drought "very serious" in Castilla y León, Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, the Canary Islands, and some areas of Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura. The organization sees the potential for a 30 percent reduction in this year's cereal harvest compared to last year's, and livestock is already threatened by loss of pasture. A drop in the number of crop insurance policies this season, attributable to both a rise in prices and initial optimism resulting from early winter rainfall, may leave many farmers vulnerable to losses.

A new study from the Water Footprint Network estimates that the EU's vulnerability to water scarcity is impacted by the fact that 38 percent of its water needs are controlled outside of its borders in goods produced abroad.

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month time period show the evolving conditions.

Most noticeable in the May through July forecast is the retreat of surpluses – particularly in western European Russia – and the persistence and creeping emergence of more deficits in Western, Central, and parts of Eastern Europe. The most severe deficit anomalies in the forecast continue to be in the northern nations: exceptional deficits are forecast to persist in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia; severe to exceptional deficits will persist in southern Sweden and emerge in southern Norway. Though surpluses are forecast to retreat in western European Russia, moderate to exceptional surpluses are forecast to emerge in Murmansk and in northwestern Sweden, and exceptional surpluses will persist in eastern Romania and Moldova.

Deficits of varying intensity are forecast to persist in many Western and Central European nations, and deficits are expected to emerge in Austria, western Ukraine, across Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Deficits are forecast to be exceptional in southern Austria, Sicily, as well as scattered pockets elsewhere.

Except for Finland and Estonia, where deficits will remain exceptional, the forecast for August through October indicates an overall reduction in the extent and severity of deficits. Primarily moderate deficits will persist in France, Belgium, Netherlands, southern Germany, western Norway, and southern Sweden. Moderate to exceptional surpluses are forecast to persist during this period in Murmansk, far eastern Romania, and Moldova, with both deficits and surpluses emerging in parts of Murmansk and Karelia, Russia. Some moderate surpluses are expected to persist in western European Russia, eastern Poland, southern Belarus and across the border into Ukraine.

The forecast for November through January indicates scattered moderate surpluses in Europe.

(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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