Africa: Severe water deficits in northern Africa, Gabon, & Botswana

27 June 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month composite forecast (below) indicates that widespread exceptional deficits should be expected across northern Africa, in eastern Sudan, Gabon, northern and southern Somalia, and southern Namibia extending into western South Africa.

Exceptional surpluses are indicated for eastern Tanzania and more moderate ones for northern Madagascar and small regions of northern South Africa.

Residents of drought-stricken Cape Town, South Africa are adjusting to two-minute showers and are flushing toilets only when "absolutely necessary" under new water restrictions limiting each person to 100 liters per day (22 Imperial, 26 US gallons). Dams supplying the area's water dropped to 10 percent usable water on June 1 and registered only a slight uptick to an effective 11.2 percent in mid-June after torrential storms whipped up winds and lightening sparked fires that killed nine people and forced the evacuation of 10,000. The city's water services manager estimates that it could take a few seasons of normal rainfall for dams to recover and without significant rainfall Cape Town could run out of water by September.

The entire province of Western Cape has been declared a disaster zone due to drought. Officials estimate that R96 million (US$7.4 million) is needed in drought support for farmers in the region, and losses sustained by wine grape producers alone are estimated at R500million (US$38.6 million). Allocation of drought relief provided in 2016 for 2015's drought has come under scrutiny by South African farmers' group Agri SA, which claims that some of the R2.5 billion (UD$192 million) earmarked was wasted on inexperienced distribution and overpriced feed.

At least 14 people were killed and 20 injured - most of them civilians - in Baidoa, Somalia as soldiers attempted to defend food aid - intended for the 142,000 displaced people now occupying the area - from other soldiers attempting to steal it. The UNHRC (United Nations Human Right Council) estimates that 437,530 Somalians have been displaced in the first quarter of 2017 due to drought, and 6.7 million face acute hunger according to the FAO. The World Bank has approved US$50 million in emergency drought response and the UN has appealed for US$60 million in aid for East Africa and the Horn.

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

For the near term forecast (June through August), recently observed intense deficit conditions in pockets across most of Africa are expected to moderate. Severe to exceptional deficit conditions are forecast to continue in the desert regions of the northern nations, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, northern Niger, and northern Sudan. Severe deficits are indicated for Equatorial Guinea and coastal Gabon. Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are expected to experience broad but moderate deficits. More exceptional deficits are expected in Botswana and the western coast of Madagascar. Exceptional surpluses are forecast to continue in eastern Tanzania extending along the coast and inland. Moderate surplus conditions are indicated in the francophone nations along the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea extending east into Cameroon and the northern reaches of the Republic of the Congo.  Central Mozambique may also experience moderate to severe surpluses.

In the September through November forecast period, extreme deficit conditions ease over most of the continent with severe conditions indicated for pockets in central Algeria and Libya, as well as northern Sudan. Surplus conditions persist in Tanzania, southern Zambia, in northern Botswana and in Zimbabwe. A small region of exceptional surplus is indicated around Mahikeng in northern South Africa.

For the December to February 2018 forecast period, moderate deficit conditions are expected to persist across much of Africa with some intensification in the Sahel region. Moderate surpluses are indicated for southern Tanzania extending into northern Mozambique, across Malawi and into eastern Zambia.

(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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