MIDDLE EAST: INTENSE WATER DEFICITS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ

23 March 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The forecast for the 12-month period ending November 2018 (below) indicates water deficits throughout much of the region, with severe to exceptional deficits in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, western and southern Iraq, United Arab Emirates, and Iran. Deficits are expected to be exceptional in Basrah, Iraq. Widespread deficits of varying severity are forecast for Turkey.

Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for Lebanon, West Bank, Israel, Jordan, and parts of Syria. Primarily moderate deficits are expected in Yemen, and generally mild deficits in Oman and the South Caucasus.

Surplus conditions are forecast along the northern Iraq/Iran border.

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

Though the forecast for the next several months, through May, indicates that exceptional deficits will shrink considerably, the extent of deficit conditions in the region will increase overall as moderate to severe deficits emerge throughout much of Turkey, and in Yemen and Oman. Exceptional deficits will continue to emerge in southern Iraq. Deficits in northern Saudi Arabia will downgrade slightly but remain intense, and deficits in the southern part of the country will upgrade slightly from moderate to severe. In Iran deficits will remain widespread but will improve somewhat, though severe deficits will persist in the bulk of the country east of Tehran, with some extreme conditions in southern Kerman Province and along the central Persian Gulf. Across the Gulf in Qatar deficit conditions will upgrade to extreme. Surpluses are forecast to continue along the northern Iraq/Iran border, along Iran’s central Caspian coast, a small pocket in northeastern Turkey, and northwestern Syria.

After May, deficit conditions of varying severity will encompass nearly the entire region, emerging in the remaining eastern extent of Turkey, and in the South Caucasus. Surpluses remain in the forecast for the northeastern border of Iraq. Exceptional deficits are forecast for southern Iraq, Kuwait, northern Saudi Arabia, eastern Kerman Province in Iran, and North Khorasan Province along Iraq’s border with Turkmenistan.

The forecast for the final quarter – September through November – indicates deficit conditions of varying severity throughout the region.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

IMPACTS
The Iranian government is facing increasing criticism over its management of the country’s water resources as news of protests by rural Iranian farmers disseminates. Protests in central Iran's Isfahan province began in February over the diversion of local river water, which has diminished in recent years, to steel factories in neighboring Yazd province. At a farmers' rally this month, Iranian anti-riot forces were dispatched to disrupt the protest.

As of March 21, the Iranian government has placed restrictions on crop cultivation in areas of the country experiencing the most severe water shortages. Water reserves in Mazandaran province have decreased by 40 percent this year compared with the same period last year, and the regional agricultural association is recommending that farmers switch from the cultivation of rice, a water-intensive crop, to oilseeds or fodder. Iran is negotiating with neighboring countries like Turkey for an increased share of joint water basins. Last year, water-rich Turkey earned $66.7 million from bottled spring water exports.

Last year’s rainfall total in Oman was significantly lower than previous years, according to the country’s Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, with 2017 averaging 20 percent below 2016. Recently, though, heavy rains produced some flash flooding in the north, with one car swept along Wadi Al Mahalil in Nakhal province. No casualties were reported.

Water level of the Dead Sea is decreasing at an average rate of one meter (3.3 feet) per year, according to Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. Israel and Jordan have diverted water from tributaries of the Dead Sea in recent years as water shortages persist. 

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.

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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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