Middle East: Widespread intense deficits persist on the Arabian Peninsula

21 July 2017

The Big Picture
For the 12-month period ending March 2018 (below), the Arabian Peninsula is forecast to experience severe to exceptional deficits. The most intense conditions are expected across central Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, in Yemen west of Aden, and in the border region of Yemen and Oman. Deficits are also forecast for the Kerman region in Iran.

Exceptional surpluses are indicated for south-central Oman, and northern Hormozgan province in Iran, extending across southern Fars. A region of western Iran extending from Tehran into northern Iraq may experience moderate surpluses.

In an open letter to President Rowhani, 110 Iranian water experts warned of “escalating conflicts in Iranian provinces over water sharing in the near future.” Nearly 300 cities are facing drought and the water crisis has become an internal security issue sparking demonstrations. According to one former agriculture minister, 50 million Iranians will have to emigrate over the next 20 years to survive.

The Deputy Director of the Iran's Water and Wastewater Planning Office says that Iran has used up nearly 90% of its renewable water resources. Water tankers are the only source of water for some remote regions of Sistan and Baluchistan Province in the south and many villages are completely deserted. On June 27, villagers in Ardebil Province and Tehran Provinces in the north protested the water crises and shut down roads.

To help alleviate chronic water shortages for Beirut's 1.6 million residents, Lebanon will begin construction of the Bisri dam later this year, at a cost of US$617 million financed primarily through a World Bank Loan. The dam will be the country's second largest with a capacity of 125 million cubic meters (4.4 billion cubic feet) in a reservoir covering 450 hectares (1,100 acres).

The construction of a new desalination plant in Paphos, Cyprus has been delayed. If the coming winter brings no rain, that delay could mean that Paphos will go thirsty and water restrictions may become necessary.

As climate change shrinks fresh water supplies, the World Bank projects that the impact of water scarcity in the Middle East could reduce GDP by between 6 and 14 percent by 2050. 

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

The extent of exceptional deficits in the Middle East is forecast to diminish somewhat July through September, though exceptional deficits will persist in a wide band across central Saudi Arabia, in southern Iraq, and in all of Lebanon. Severe deficits will emerge throughout much of Yemen and more intense deficitsextreme to exceptional – will persist in the southwestern region of the country. Extreme deficits will persist in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, in Iraq west of the Euphrates, and will emerge in North Khorasan, Iran. Primarily moderate deficits will emerge in northern Syria and central and eastern Turkey, joining more severe deficits already present in Antalya and north of Ankara and Adana. Prior observed surpluses in south-central Iran near the Persian Gulf and from Tehran to the southern Iraqi border will transition to conditions of both deficit and surplus. Surpluses along the northern borders of the two countries are expected to persist.

From October through December deficits across the Middle East are forecast to diminish, leaving near-normal conditions in Turkey, along the northern border of Iran and Iraq, and central Yemen; moderate to extreme conditions in eastern Iran, Iraq west of the Euphrates, and southwestern and eastern Yemen; and extreme to exceptional deficits in southern Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and western UAE.

The forecast map for the final quarter, January2018 through March 2018, indicates moderate to severe deficits in Yemen, moderate deficits in Saudi Arabia, and mild deficit to normal conditions elsewhere in the region.

(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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