Africa: Water deficits persist in Somaliland and Somalia; surpluses in Tanzania

22 August 2017

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

Surpluses are forecast for the southern coast of Guinea around Conakry into Sierra Leone, and Tanzania, northeastern Madagascar, and northwestern Mozambique.

Nearly 500 people have died in a massive mudslide and flooding that hit the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, engulfing 3- and 4-story homes. Officials estimate that 600 people remain missing and between 3,000 and 10,000 are homeless. Morgues are overwhelmed and aid workers are warning about the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera from rotting corpses.  

In Somalia drought has shrunk water supplies, leading to contamination and a cholera outbreak that has claimed 812 lives since January, reports WHO's Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.

In July, drought-stricken Nairobi County in Kenya declared an outbreak of cholera. Water rationing has been in place since January in the city of Nairobi but officials are worried that it may not be enough to save the 3.1 million inhabitants from running out of water by September. As of the end of July the Ndakini reservoir was only 37 percent full, and 60 percent of the city's population was without reliable water. Water from the old, polluted Nairobi Dam reservoir is being considered for non-potable use.

FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN) reports that 2 million animals have succumbed to drought in Ethiopia, devastating livestock-dependent families. The drought has also reduced meat exports by half over the last fiscal year and cut planned earnings from meat exports from US$146 million to US$100.3 million, according to Ethiopia's Ministry of Livestock Development and Fisheries.

Food security in southern Africa, already compromised by prolonged drought and a fall armyworm invasion, may now face further challenge from an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa that could affect poultry production.

Partly in response to widespread drought, central Africa banks are easing monetary policies in order to stimulate growth.

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

The extent of exceptional water deficits is expected to diminish considerably August through October, particularly in the southern half of the continent. In the north, however, deficits reaching exceptional intensity are forecast from northern Mauritania through much of Algeria, northeastern Niger, Libya, northern Sudan, and also in Somaliland, much of Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for many southern African nations, but conditions may be more intense in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, western Madagascar, and isolated pockets in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia. A large block of exceptional surplus is forecast to persist in eastern Tanzania, and some exceptional surplus is also expected in northern Madagascar.

For much of the continent, the forecast for November 2017 through January 2018 indicates a significant downgrade in the intensity of deficits overall to primarily moderate, with more severe conditions projected in western Mauritania into northern Senegal, northern Sudan, Gabon, and southwestern Namibia. And while the emphasis in prior months has been primarily on deficits, it is the large blue block of surpluses in East Africa that stands out. Though the intensity of water surpluses in eastern Tanzania is expected to diminish, the overall extent of surpluses is forecast to increase as surpluses ranging from severe to exceptional emerge across much of the remainder of the country, as well in nearby Malawi, northern Mozambique, and eastern Zambia. Surpluses are also forecast along the While Nile in South Sudan, and in Uganda and western Kenya, where surpluses could reach exceptional intensity north and south of Lake Victoria, including near Kampala, Uganda.

The forecast for the final quarter – February through April 2018 – indicates a resurgence of more intense deficits encompassing much of the northern half of the continent, and a decrease in surplus conditions in East Africa.

(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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