Africa: Water deficits forecast to emerge in Botswana, NE Namibia

25 July 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast (below) indicates widespread severe to exceptional deficits across northern Africa, Gabon, western Somaliland, southern Somalia, and southern Namibia extending into western South Africa. Deficits of lesser severity are forecast for many other parts of Africa.

Exceptional surpluses are indicated for eastern Tanzania and more moderate ones for northern Madagascar.

In East Africa drought continues to take a toll on human health through hunger and violence. Drought is fueling conflict in central Kenya that has left over a dozen people dead as armed herders push tens of thousands of cattle onto private farms and ranches in search of dwindling pasture. In drought-ravaged Turkana tensions prompted the country's energy minister to suspend an oil pumping project by a British-Canadian firm. 

The International Rescue Committee reports that gender-based violence is on the rise in Kenya and Somalia. As drought increases food insecurity the vulnerability of women and girls searching for food and water increases, along with early and forced marriages and transactional sex for survival.

The drought has pushed food prices in Kenya up 10 to 25 percent above five-year averages. Effective July 3, the African Development Bank Group approved US$1 million in emergency humanitarian assistance. An estimated 3.5 million people are in need of emergency food relief and the Kenya Red Cross Society is using a mobile phone based money transfer system to get quick cash into the hands of drought-afflicted families.

Kenya's Statistics Office says that the drought contributed to a drop in growth in the first quarter of 2017, the first in five years, pushing inflation to a five-year high of 11.7 percent.

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS) estimates released in July indicate that an additional 300,000 Somalians entered Phase 3 "crisis stage" since FEWS' June estimates were released. Phase 5 in the system represents full famine. In June an estimated 14,397 suspected cholera cases, including 101 deaths were recorded in Somalia, bringing the 2017 total to 71,663 with 1,098 deaths. In early July the US announced an increase of nearly $126 million in humanitarian aid to Somalia, bringing the total US assistance to $336.7 million to date this year.

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

What is most apparent in the map progression above is that the extent of exceptional water deficits forecast through the first six months – April through September – is expected to diminish considerably thereafter. In the near-term though, severe to exceptional deficit conditions are forecast to continue July through September in the desert regions of the northern nations, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, northern Niger, and northern Sudan. Severe to exceptional deficits are indicated for Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Exceptional deficits will retreat in southern Namibia but will emerge in the northeastern portion of the country, eastward into neighboring Botswana and across the border into South Africa. Moderate to extreme deficits are forecast for Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, central Zambia, Ethiopia, Somalia, northern Mozambique, and western and southern Madagascar.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast to continue in eastern Tanzania though September but will retreat to the coast by December. Prior surpluses in western Zambia and Zimbabwe will transition to conditions of both surplus and deficit July through September as deficits emerge. Likewise, an area around Mahikeng in northern South Africa will also transition to both surplus and deficit, but is forecast to return to surplus conditions from October through December. Moderate surplus conditions are indicated July through September in Benin, central Togo, and northern Republic of the Congo.

As mentioned previously, intense deficit conditions will ease over most of the continent from October 2017 through March 2018, with pockets of extreme to exceptional deficits indicated across the northern nations, and primarily moderate deficits elsewhere.

The forecast for the final quarter – January through March 2018 – indicates a slight uptick in the intensity of deficits in a band across the center of the continent from Guinea to Somalia, and slight downturn in deficits across the north.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Note on Administrative Boundaries
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.


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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