Europe: Water deficits forecast to persist in many parts of Europe

21 August 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast through April 2018 indicates a predominance of water deficits of varying severity in many parts of Europe. Deficits are expected to be especially widespread and intense in Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, Belgium, and Finland.

Exceptional water surpluses are forecast in western Russia and along the Volga. Surpluses of nearly equal intensity are forecast along the border of Romania and Moldova.

Europe's summer heatwave - nicknamed "Lucifer" - and drought have resulted in agricultural losses of nearly US$1 billion in Italy and an equal amount in Serbia. Serbia's maize, soy, and sugar beet yield will drop by up to 60 percent over last year and a drastic drop in water levels threatens fish stock. 

Albania, which normally produces nearly 100 percent of its electricity from hydropower, has been forced to import 80 percent recently as low water levels on the Drin River have reduced production at three of the country's largest hydropower plants. European electricity production will become increasingly vulnerable due to climate change, according to a study recently published in Nature Energy, as thermoelectric stations - coal, gas, and nuclear plants - face limited water supplies for cooling.

Wildfires continue to tear through southern Europe, creating forest wastelands and threatening agriculture and tourism. Officials evacuated 12,000 people on France's Mediterranean coast at the end of July where fires burned campgrounds and popular tourist destinations leaving charred lunar-like forest landscapes, and briefly forced the closure of an airport in Toulon. More than 4,000 firefighters and at least 19 water-bombers were mobilized.

Portugal, too, has been battling fire outbreaks since the devastating fires in June.  A large fire destroyed 80-90 percent of Mação municipality at the end of July, and flames and smoke from a recent fire in the region have left 2,000 people cut off.

In Italy, 26 cities were on the health ministry's heat alert list as temperatures topped 40°C (104°F) and 11 regions face critical water shortages. Olive yields are projected to be 50 percent lower than normal in some parts of the country and sheep's milk production is down 30 percent in others, with negative repercussions for the percorino cheese industry.

Even Greenland has succumbed to a large wildfire during a dry summer of relatively high temperatures. 

Forecast Breakdown
The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month time period show the evolving conditions.

As is clear in the map progression, the extent of exceptional water deficits is expected to diminish considerably in the coming months, particularly after October, though southern Europe will remain in deficit for the extent of the 12-month forecast period.

From August through October some relief is forecast – particularly for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium – as the extent of exceptional deficits in Europe shrinks. Other than some isolated pockets, only Finland will remain in the grip of widespread, exceptional water deficits. Deficits of varying severity will, however, continue to envelop much of Europe. Severe to extreme deficits are forecast for: France, Belgium, Netherlands, southern Sweden, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in much of the remainder of Europe. Western Russia stands out in obvious contrast with exceptional surpluses forecast to increase in extent. Intense surpluses are also forecast for the border of Romania and Moldova, and a pocket in north-central Germany. Surpluses of lesser severity are forecast for Northern Ireland, Scotland, northern Sweden, and northeastern Poland into western Belarus.

The forecast for November 2017 through January 2018 indicates a continued recession of deficits, leaving moderate deficits in Spain, France, Italy, and some severe deficits in Greece, Albania, and Croatia. A dramatic retreat of exceptional deficits is forecast in Finland though exceptional deficits are expected to persist in a patch of northern Lapland. Surpluses will diminish considerably in Murmansk; elsewhere in western Russia surpluses ranging from moderate to exceptional will continue to emerge. Intense surpluses may persist on the border of Romania and Moldova. Conditions in Estonia and Latvia are expected to transition from deficit to surplus, and moderate to severe surpluses will emerge throughout Norway.

In the remaining months of the forecast – February through April 2018 – water surpluses are expected across the northern portions of Europe and moderate deficits in the south.

(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.

For more information contact

Copyright 2019 ISCIENCES, L.L.C. Global Water Monitor & Forecast Watch List is the property of ISCIENCES, L.L.C. It is protected by U.S. copyright laws and may not be reproduced in any way without the written permission of ISCIENCES, L.L.C. The user assumes the entire risk related to its use of information on ISCIENCES, L.L.C. Web pages, including information derived from Water Security Indicators Model (WSIM). This information may include forecasts, projections and other predictive statements that represent ISCIENCES, L.L.C.’s assumptions and expectations in light of currently available information and using the highest professional standards. Actual results may differ from those projected. Consequently, no guarantee is presented or implied as to the accuracy of specific forecasts, projections or predictive statements contained herein. ISCIENCES, L.L.C. provides such information "as is," and disclaims any and all warranties, whether express or implied, including (without limitation) any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will ISCIENCES, L.L.C. be liable to you or to any third party for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, special or exemplary damages or lost profit resulting from any use or misuse of this data.