Africa: Exceptional water deficits to diminish considerably

22 September 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast (below) indicates severe water deficits across northern Africa with some large pockets of exceptional deficits along the border of Algeria and Libya, in northeastern Niger, along the Red Sea in Egypt and Sudan, and in central Somalia.

Primarily moderate water deficits are forecast for much of the remainder of the continent. Tanzania remains the exception, with water surpluses expected, which may reach exceptional intensity in Dodoma Region.

South Africa's Western Cape has been allocated R74 million (US$5.57 million) in drought relief from the federal government's National Disaster Management Centre, and the province is investing R300 million (US$22.6 million) to help insure sufficient water supply in the future. Of the federal funds, R40 million (US$3 million) is earmarked for agriculture. Dam levels in the region are improving, up to about 37 percent full as of mid-September, though well below last year's level at this time of 62 percent.

Cape Town has instituted further water restrictions - Level 5 - in an effort to bring the collective daily water use down from 599 million liters to the target of 500 million (158 to 132 million US gallons). Commercial properties must reduce consumption by 20 percent compared to last year. Domestic properties are allowed 20 kiloliters per month (5,283 US gallons), and could face fines for non-compliance or the installation of a water management device billed to the consumer. Planning for a potential "day zero" - the day Cape Town runs out of water - the army is preparing to dispense water and emergency purification services in December.

The worst drought in over 50 years has forced some Ugandans to pose as South Sudanese refugees to receive food aid. Uganda, praised for its generous refugee policies, has accepted over 1 million Sudanese since the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan, more than 50,000 of whom shelter in the sprawling Ngomoromo camp in northern Uganda. Calling themselves refugees in their own country, hungry Ugandans line up next to South Sudanese for food delivered by international refugee aid agencies.

Drought in Africa continues to escalate conflict between herders seeking pasture and established farmers - as reported in ISciences' previous blog post regarding Kenya - creating new national security threats rivaling fractious insurgencies in societal impact. A new study by the International Crisis Group (ICG) asserts that 2,500 people died in Nigeria's farmer-herder clashes in 2016, more than at the hands of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The ICG report quotes government figures estimating revenue losses of nearly $14 billion a year due to herder-farmer conflicts in Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau states, an average of 47 percent of internally-generated revenues.

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

As is evident in the map progression above, the extent of exceptional water deficits is expected to diminish considerably September through November, particularly in the southern half of the continent. In the north extreme to exceptional deficits are forecast across the southern Sahara. Much of the southern half of the continent will transition from exceptional deficits to primarily moderate deficits, with slightly more intense conditions in northern Mozambique, western Madagascar, and southern Namibia. Deficits will continue to emerge in eastern Central African Republic, increasing in intensity; surpluses in western CAR will transition to deficits. Exceptional surpluses are expected to persist in southeastern Tanzania.

Overall, the forecast for December through February indicates moderate deficits along with deficits of greater severity peppered across the southern Sahara. And while the emphasis has been on deficits, it is the large blue block of surpluses in East Africa that stands out. The intensity of water surpluses in eastern Tanzania is expected to diminish, but the overall extent of surpluses is forecast to increase as severe to exceptional surpluses emerge across much of the remainder of the country – particularly in Dodoma Region – bleeding into eastern Zambia, Malawi, and northern Mozambique. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast surrounding Lake Victoria in Uganda and along the White Nile in South Sudan. Madagascar is expected to return to near-normal water conditions.

The forecast for the final quarter – March through May 2018 – looks similar to the prior three months but with an increase in the extent and intensity of deficits across the Sahara and a decrease of 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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