Africa: Water surpluses forecast for SE Tanzania, NE & coastal Kenya

22 May 2017

The Big Picture
Widespread severe to exceptional water deficits remain in the 12-month forecast for northern Africa. Other notable areas of deficit include Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, southwestern Namibia, and western South Africa.

Surpluses are forecast in coastal and northeastern Kenya, southeastern Tanzania, western Zambia, northern Botswana, southern Zimbabwe, and northern South Africa.

After the fourth consecutive month of increase Kenya's annual inflation rate reached 11.5 percent in April - the highest in five years - due largely to severe drought that has driven food prices up and cut first quarter black tea production by 35 percent. Hydropower generation is down, forcing a 300 percent increase in hydropower imports from neighboring Uganda in the last four months. A drought-related drop in cane production has contributed to an increase in sugar imports as well.

While drought has taken a toll in many parts of Kenya in recent months, in early May flooding and landslides triggered by torrential rainfall claimed the lives of 14 people in southeastern Kenya and forced the evacuation of 14,000. Nearly 235mm (9.25 inches) of rain was recorded in Mombasa over a 24-hour period. The flooding closed schools, destroyed bridges, and temporarily halted ferry service at Likoni channel in Mombasa as the downpour created dangerous currents. Farther north, 11,684 families at the Dadaab Refugee camp have been affected as flooding washed away roads, food, and shelters. 

Drought in Ethiopia has left 7.7 million people in need of food aid, according to the country's National Disaster Risk Management Commission, which has made an appeal for US$1 billion in international aid.

As of early May dam levels in South Africa's Cape Town contained only 12.3 percent of usable water, due to ongoing drought, and measurements at mid-month indicated no improvement. Water shortages in the country, particularly devastating throughout 2016, have begun to influence the culture - a new musical inspired by an ancient African rain dance is opening in Pretoria titled "Kiu," the Swahili word for thirst.

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

Widespread water deficits ranging from severe to exceptional are forecast across northern Africa through July or longer, reaching from Mauritania to Egypt and including northern portions of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Sudan. Deficits of equal severity are forecast through July for Gabon, central Republic of the Congo, and western Madagascar. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in: northern Cameroon, eastern Central African Republic, southwestern Ethiopia, western Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, and northern Mozambique.

Exceptional surpluses are expected to emerge in northeastern and coastal Kenya, and to re-emerge in south-central Sudan. Surpluses of varying intensity are forecast to persist in southeastern Tanzania, western Zambia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, and along South Africa’s border with Botswana.

Deficits will persist across northern Africa from August through October, though the overall extent and severity is expected to diminish, leaving deficits in Algeria, Libya, northeastern Mali, Egypt, and northern Sudan. Severe to exceptional deficits will persist in western Madagascar. Primarily moderate deficits will persist in DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, and northern Mozambique. Surpluses may persist in coastal Kenya, southeastern Tanzania, and along South Africa’s border with Botswana. Aforementioned surpluses in northeastern Kenya, western Zambia, northern Botswana, and Zimbabwe may transition to conditions of both deficit and surplus as deficits emerge.

The forecast for the final months of the 12-month period – November through January – indicates a continued downgrade in the intensity of deficits overall.

(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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