South Asia: Water deficits forecast for Tamil Nadu, southern Andhra Pradesh, coastal Maharashtra

24 May 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast (below) indicates moderate water deficits throughout much of India with deficits of greater severity in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and some northern states. Deficits are also forecast for southern Pakistan and western Afghanistan.

Surpluses are forecast for eastern Afghanistan; northern Pakistan; Jammu and Kashmir, India; and northeastern Bangladesh.

Drought in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh in southern India has created ghost towns as the able-bodied migrate to cities in search of day labor, with no other choice but to leave children and the elderly behind. One fact-finding team estimates that 487,000 people have migrated to other districts, 68 percent of villages have severe drinking water shortages, 42 percent of agricultural wells have dried up, and farm animal stock has declined by 50 percent.

As their parents migrate in search of jobs the children left behind, usually with elderly relatives but sometimes alone, often have difficulties collecting public assistance rations as ration cards are biometrically linked via fingerprint to their parents.

The drought situation is similar in neighboring states of Karnataka, Goa, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu where complex inter-related issues conspire to exacerbate impacts: aging, narrow pipelines inadequate for growing populations; agricultural use of groundwater that reduces drinking water supply; and farm loan defaults. But while drought conditions are much the same, out-migration has slowed in some regions that have implemented MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), a federal rural job guarantee scheme, though complaints about procedural issues with the program abound, including non-payment of wages.

Late in April heavy rainfall in Kashmir raised the level of the Jhelum River to the point where dredgers hired to remove silt from flood channels had to discontinue work near Srinagar, and near Baramulla where strong currents threatened to tear a dredger from its moorings.

In Nepal, unseasonable flooding along the Khungring River destroyed the canals of micro hydro power plants, leaving 550 households in darkness for several days, shutting down a dozen mills, and disrupting transportation on the Samdu – Sakranti road. Locals estimate losses as the greatest since 2008.

The Pandai River along the border between Nepal's Chitwan National Park and India's Valmiki Tiger Reserve has, after years of relatively peaceful shared use, become a focus of dispute between upstream Nepalese villagers and downstream villagers in Bihar, India. Until other working arrangements are devised, border guards convinced both sides to divide the river into three channels so that some water will reach downstream users.

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

The forecast for May through July indicates a significant improvement in water conditions for the region. Deficits in India are expected to downgrade in intensity, leaving primarily moderate deficits in central India. However, deficits in the south may be severe to extreme, affecting Tamil Nadu, southern Andhra Pradesh, and coastal Maharashtra. Deficits in Pakistan will diminish considerably; moderate to exceptional deficits are forecast for western Afghanistan. Exceptional surpluses are forecast to persist in Jammu and Kashmir, and moderate to extreme surpluses in eastern Afghanistan, northeastern Pakistan, and northeastern Bangladesh. Surpluses are also forecast along the Kali Gandaki River in Nepal.

From August through October normal water conditions are forecast for central India, mild surpluses in the Godivari River watershed, and merely abnormal to moderate deficits for much of the rest of the country. Exceptional surpluses are expected to persist in Jammu and Kashmir and emerge along the Indus River in northern Pakistan. Moderate to extreme surpluses will persist in eastern Afghanistan, and exceptional deficits will continue to emerge in southwestern Afghanistan. Moderate to extreme deficits will emerge in Bhutan and northeastern India.

The final months – November through January – indicate emerging moderate deficits across northern India.

(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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