Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean: Water deficits ahead for much of Mexico

20 September 2017

The Big Picture
The 12-month forecast ending May 2018 (below) indicates drought throughout much of Mexico reaching exceptional severity in Nayarit in the west and Tamaulipas on the Gulf. Deficits are also forecast in western Cuba.

Surpluses are forecast for Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, and may be most intense in Costa Rica.

Hurricane season is taking an especially hard toll on the Caribbean this year. Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, struck the region on September 6, bringing high winds and flooding that destroyed 95 percent of the buildings on Barbuda, with rebuilding costs estimated at $100 million, and for the first time in 300 years no one lives on the island. Damages on St. Bart's and French St. Martin's are estimated at $1.4 billion, 90 percent of the electricity infrastructure on Anguilla was damaged, 70 percent of the houses on St. Maarten were damaged or destroyed, and a million people were without power in Puerto Rico.

With recovery efforts just beginning, another powerful storm, Hurricane Maria, is currently moving into the region with 155-mph winds, striking Dominica, Guadaloupe, and Puerto Rico.

Drought continues its grip on many parts of Mexico, though two other high-profile natural disasters - an 8.1 magnitude earthquake off the southern coast on September 8 and a 7.1 quake near Mexico City on September 19 - have stunned the region. In Colima State on Mexico's west coast drought has affected livestock producers, 1,107 of whom have received insurance compensation totaling 8 million pesos from several programs underwritten by the National Confederation of Livestock Organizations, SAGARPA (Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food), and the State Government. Colima ranchers join those in nearby Nayarit who were also awarded government support, as previously reported.

The US and Mexico are closing in on a water sharing deal for the Colorado River that will establish rules for the next decade and avert severe water shortages.

A new UN study correlates irregular migration from Central America's Dry Corridor to the US with droughts in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, pointing to high levels of food insecurity. Recommendations include policies that reduce drought vulnerability - hazard monitoring, risk insurance, targeted food assistance - to reduce emigration.

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

Please note that we are well aware of the recent devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Readers are advised that inputs used in our Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM), the model used to generate “Global Water Monitor and Forecast Watch List,” have proven reliable in forecasting broad precipitation patterns, but are not effective for predicting singular events such as tropical storms. For more information on WSIM, see

The map progression above indicates a forecast of persistent drought in Mexico, increasing in extent and severity through February 2018. For the next several months exceptional deficits are forecast in Nayarit, and deficits of varying severity are expected in many other states including Hidalgo, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas.

After November deficits are projected to increase in extent across most of the country with exceptional deficits emerging in Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Jalisco. Deficits will also increase in Guatemala. Surpluses in Central America are expected diminish but will remain in the forecast through November in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, and are expected to persist beyond November primarily in Costa Rica. Observed exceptional deficits in western Cuba will moderate but persist through February 2018. Puerto Rico will transition to surplus conditions in the near-term.

(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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