Southeast Asia & the Pacific: Water deficits forecast to spread in Malaysia, emerge in Indonesia

26 June 2018

The 12-month map (below) indicates severe to extreme water deficits in southernmost Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, western Malaysian Borneo, northern Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, and Papua New Guinea. Deficits may reach exceptional intensity around the Gulf of Papua and some pockets of peninsular Malaysia and northern Sumatra.

Primarily moderate deficits are expected in much of mainland Thailand, western Cambodia, western Java, Timor-Leste, and scattered throughout Indonesia.

Moderate to extreme surpluses are forecast for northern Laos and East Nusa Tenggara, and surpluses of generally lesser severity in pockets of western Myanmar, eastern Cambodia, parts of northeastern Borneo, and central Philippines.

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

The near-term forecast through August indicates a transition away from widespread, intense surplus to deficit. Surpluses are forecast, however, for: pockets of western Myanmar, along the Sittaung River, and southern Myanmar; northern Laos; northwestern Vietnam; eastern Cambodia; central Philippines; and East Nusa Tenggara. Deficits in western Cambodia will moderate overall but some extreme to exceptional pockets will persist west of Tonlé Sap. Moderate deficits will emerge nearby in Thailand and in southern Vietnam. Intense deficits will spread in peninsular Malaysia, reaching into southernmost Thailand, and also spread in northern Sumatra. Conditions in Malaysian Borneo are forecast to transition from intense surplus to intense deficit. Deficits of varying intensity are expected to emerge throughout Indonesia and may be extreme in West Nusa Tenggara and Timor-Leste. Deficits in Papua New Guinea will downgrade overall from exceptional to severe.

From September through November surpluses will nearly disappear and moderate deficits are forecast throughout much of the region with severe deficits in western Thailand, eastern Mindanao, and around the Gulf of Papua. Conditions may be even more intense – with a return period of 20 to 40 years – in peninsular Malaysia and western Malaysian Borneo.

The forecast for the final months – December through February – indicates some normalization of conditions in Indonesia, with deficits in much of the remainder of the region, particularly Thailand.

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

A cyclone that formed in the Bay of Bengal made landfall in western Myanmar's Rakhine State late last month, killing five people and destroying 1,400 homes. In the eastern state of Shan dozens of people were forced from their homes by flooding and a 10-year-old boy was swept to his death while attempting to wash his feet in a rapidly flowing drainage ditch. Six other children disappeared in central Myanmar while crossing a flooded creek.

Seasonal monsoon rains have continued to flood Myanmar this month, triggering a landslide that killed five people in the central town of Mogok. Days of heavy rain in the southern state of Mon triggered another landslide, damaging a famous Buddhist pagoda. The flooding, which some residents claimed to be the worst they had ever seen in the state, displaced over 1,000 people and submerged schools, homes, and bridges. As of mid-June, at least 16 people were reported missing or killed.

Tropical Storm Domeng enhanced a Philippine monsoon, flooding major thoroughfares of Metro-Manila with heavy rain this month. The Philippine Coast Guard rescued 44 people from a sinking boat that had been hit by its own outrigger, destroyed by large storm-driven waves. Some flights were cancelled at the airport on Palawan after a storm-related landing incident closed a runway.

Days of rain in Penampang, Malaysia caused heavy flooding in 14 villages early this month, blocking roadways and forcing residents to evacuate.

Drought in Battambang Province is threatening more than 8,000 hectares of rice (~19,800 acres) in western Cambodia. In an effort to save the plantations, officials are dredging two main canals and pumping water to the affected areas. 

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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