21 March 2018

The 12-month forecast through November 2018 indicates mild to severe water deficits as the dominant condition in South America with significant pockets of exceptional deficit. Exceptional deficits are forecast for southern Venezuela, French Guiana into Amapá (Brazil), and scattered pockets in Brazil including the states of Acre, São Paolo, and Rio Grande do Sul. Exceptional deficits are also forecast in southern Chile around the Gulf of Corcovado.

Severe to exceptional deficits are forecast for a vast area in northeastern Argentina and throughout Uruguay.

Intense surpluses are forecast for northern Bolivia and Boquerón Department in northwestern Paraguay. Surplus is also forecast in eastern Paraguay and surrounding O’Higgins/San Martín Lake in Patagonia.

The 3-month maps (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions in greater detail.

The extent of deficit is forecast to diminish considerably in the next several months, allowing many regions of Brazil to return to near-normal water conditions. Through May, however, pockets of intense deficit are forecast in Brazil for northern Amapá; Acre; the Rio Negro area in Amazonas and farther west around the ecological reserves of the Rios Japurá and Jutaí; surrounding João Pinheiro in Minas Gerais; northern Mato Grosso do Sul; São Paolo; and southern Rio Grande do Sul. Conditions of exceptional deficit are also expected in southern Venezuela, eastern Suriname, French Guiana, and around the Gulf of Corcovado in Chile. Severe to extreme deficits are forecast for Uruguay and a large block in eastern Argentina. Other areas of notable deficit include western Ecuador, Peru, Santiago (Chile), the Chubut River in Argentina, and Tierro del Fuego.

Surplus is forecast in northeastern Venezuela; Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil; Paraguay; and around O’Higgins/ San Martín Lake in Patagonia. Surplus conditions may be exceptional in Paraguay’s Boquerón Department in the northwest, and O’Higgins Lake.

From June through August deficits across the continent will continue to moderate overall. However, extreme or exceptional deficits remain in the forecast for the area surrounding João Pinheiro in Minas Gerais, and also northern Mato Grosso do Sul, and São Paolo. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for northwestern Venezuela, western Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Acre (Brazil), and Chile. Primarily moderate deficits are expected in Suriname, French Guiana, northeastern Brazil, Uruguay, and eastern Argentina. Surpluses will persist in Boquerón Department, Paraguay and in central Paraguay, and across the border into Argentina. Severe surplus conditions will emerge on the Santa Cruz River in Patagonia.

In the final quarter – September through November – moderate deficits will emerge in much of the continent with more severe conditions across the north and in Chile.

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

Severe drought and resulting hydroelectric dam shortages caused blackouts in seven western Venezuelan states this month. Some outbreaks of protests, rioting, and looting were reported in four Trujillo municipalities. The government has since imposed power rationing through forced outages. Venezuela is no stranger to hydroelectric power shortages; in 2016 the national government implemented emergency electricity rationing in response to the worst drought seen in five decades. Recently, power outages have become more frequent and prolonged, and as the country undergoes an increasingly dire political and economic crisis Venezuelans are fleeing in record numbers.

In neighboring Colombia, water rationing was instituted in early February to address drought-related water shortages in Santander Department, affecting 4,000 residents of Güepsa. 

Now into a fourth month, the drought in Argentina is expected to cost the nation's economy $4.6 billion, or 0.7 percent of projected 2018 GDP. Argentine farmers and analysts have given up hope of drought recovery for this season’s soy and corn crops, whose yields have been repeatedly slashed since mid-November, driving up soy and corn futures and boosting estimates of US and Chinese soy exports. Argentina is the world’s largest producer of soy-based livestock feed and third-largest exporter of soybeans and corn. Soybean meal is also the key ingredient in food pellets for farmed fish, and as soymeal prices rise, so could the price of salmon

Agricultural producers in Uruguay have appealed to the federal government for drought relief to offset expected losses of US$500 million. The government declared an agricultural emergency in seven northern provinces and initiated an emergency fund to provide no-interest loans to family farmers with no more than 500 hectares (1,235.5 acres) of land. 

Brazil's drought-stricken states of Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte can expect some relief by the end of the year, the expected completion date for a canal carrying water from the São Francisco River to the northeast. It is the second waterway project diverting the São Francisco, the first of which was completed last year, providing water for 1 million people in Paraiba state. The river is one of the longest on the continent, stretching 2,914 kilometers (1,811 miles).

Brazilian authorities ordered the world’s largest alumina refinery, located in the northern state of Pará, to halt operations at its bauxite residue deposit following heavy rains which prompted concerns over water contamination. The company’s notice of force majeure comes within six months of its last one in September 2017, when regional water shortage reduced bauxite production, causing a shortfall in supply. 

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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