24 April 2018

The 12-month forecast through December 2018 indicates water deficits of varying severity for much of the continent, with large pockets of exceptional deficit in Brazil, including the states of Amapá, Acre, northeastern Mato Grosso do Sul, and São Paolo. Intense deficits are also forecast for southern Venezuela, southern Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, the Argentine Pampas, the Gulf of Corcovado in southern Chile, and along many rivers.

Moderate to exceptional surpluses are expected in Huánuco Region in central Peru, in Brazil’s easternmost tip, and in northern Bolivia. Moderate surplus is forecast for eastern Paraguay, and extreme surplus in Patagonia surrounding O’Higgins/San Martín Lake.

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

The extent of exceptional deficit is forecast to diminish considerably in South America over the next several months. However, pockets of intense deficit are forecast for Brazil in Amapá, Amazonas, Acre, Maranhão, Goiás, western Minas Gerais, northern Mato Grosso do Sul, and São Paolo. Severe to exceptional deficits are expected in southeastern Venezuela, eastern Suriname, French Guiana, western Colombia, western Ecuador, a pocket in southern Bolivia, the Gulf of Corcovado in Chile, and Tierra del Fuego. Exceptional deficit conditions in northeastern Argentina will downgrade but moderate to extreme deficits will continue. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Uruguay, much of Peru, and much of Chile.

Surpluses in Huánuco Region in central Peru will shrink and begin to transition to deficit; surpluses in northern Bolivia will shrink and downgrade as will surpluses in eastern Paraguay. Intense surplus conditions are expected to re-emerge in southern Argentine between the Colorado and Neuquén Rivers, and intense surpluses will shrink but persist around O’Higgins/San Martín Lake in Patagonia.

From July through September moderate to severe deficits will continue to emerge across the northern bulk of the continent. Many of the aforementioned areas of intense deficits will persist, but exceptional deficits in Amazonas, southeastern Venezuela, eastern Suriname, and French Guiana will downgrade slightly. Deficits in northeastern Argentina will moderate; deficits in northern Chile will upgrade, becoming severe to exceptional. Surpluses in northern Bolivia and eastern Paraguay will continue to shrink, but severe surpluses will emerge in a narrow band across the Chaco Boreal region of western Paraguay. Surpluses elsewhere will diminish.

In the final quarter – October through December – severe deficits will continue to emerge across the northern third of the continent and in northern Chile. Moderate surpluses will emerge in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina.

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

Power outages continue in western regions of Venezuela despite the end of electricity rationing instituted in March due to low hydroelectric production, a consequence of recent drought. In neighboring Colombia, it was too much water not too little that disrupted electricity service to thousands as seasonal rains brought flooding and devastation to some neighborhoods in Medellin.

Drought in Argentina is pushing US soybean futures higher. In an effort to make up for a failing late season harvestwhich may drop Argentina's total production to the smallest since 2009, it has already purchased 120,000 tonnes from the US, its largest purchase of US soybeans in 20 years. Some analysts estimate that the figure could climb to a million tonnes by the end of the year.

The appearance of a new river in central Argentina calls into question the rapid expansion of soybean production and the reliance of the country on a crop that makes up a third of its exports. In San Luis Province a valley once covered in patches of forest has long since been cleared for expanded soy production, but over the past few years several new water courses have developed, the largest dubbed Río Nuevo (New River) cutting a ravine through prime farmland and carrying debris and silt onto fields farther along its course. Where water-absorbing forests and grasslands once covered the area, recent agricultural practices have led to erosion and run-off.

A state of agricultural emergency has been declared in two northern Argentine provinces, one for ongoing drought impacts, the other for widespread flooding from heavy rains. Entre Ríos in the northeast has suffered from the severe drought affecting much of the Pampas, with impacts on a range of agricultural products. Heavy rainfall in Salta Province to the northwest, a prime citrus region, has caused three rivers to overflow. Argentina, once in the top 10 of beef exporting nations, expects its total cattle stock to shrink by as much as a million going into next year. Drought conditions have cut the production of feed grains and precluded the planting of grasses for grazing and hay.

The La Niña driven drought is projected to shave GDP points off the economies of Argentina and Uruguay. Strong economic growth in 2017 is under pressure in 2018 as continuing drought conditions impact the agricultural underpinnings of both countries’ economies. Economic losses in the agricultural sector are estimated at US$3.4 billion in Argentina, equal to a 0.5 percent reduction in GDP, and anticipated losses in Uruguay surpass US$500 million.

Chile’s energy minister announced plans to phase out the use of coal for energy production, part of a plan to transform the country's energy mix to 70 percent renewables by 2050. Currently, coal accounts for 40 percent of Chile's power generation. After a severe drought in 2008, policy-makers sought to decrease dependence on hydropower, bumping up coal production, but the new directive will bring more solar voltaic and wind into the renewables mix.

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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