Africa: Water deficits to intensify in W Ethiopia, Zambia, & Botswana

19 July 2018

The 12-month forecast (below) indicates exceptional water deficits in northern Africa from southeastern Algeria to the Red Sea. Intense surpluses are expected in East Africa.

Other areas of intense deficit include eastern Eritrea, Djibouti, westernmost Somaliland, northwestern Ethiopia, Gabon, and southwestern Namibia. Moderate deficits are forecast for many other parts of Africa, with areas of severe deficit in northern Algeria, northern Mali, western Ethiopia, south-central Democratic Republic of the Congo, eastern Botswana and southern Mozambique.

In East Africa, severe to exceptional surpluses are forecast for Tanzania, northern Madagascar, Kenya, northern Uganda, the White Nile in southern South Sudan, and, to a lesser degree, western Central African Republic into Cameroon. Moderate surpluses are indicated for northern Zambia and northern Mozambique.

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

The forecast through September indicates that exceptional deficits will shrink and downgrade across North Africa and along the Red Sea. Exceptional deficits will persist along Libya’s northeastern coast, including Benghazi; deficits nearly as intense at the intersection of Algeria, Libya, and Niger; and severe deficits in the remainder of Libya and in Egypt and northern Sudan. Intense deficits are forecast for western Ethiopia, and are expected to emerge in much of Algeria, though conditions of both deficit and surplus will intermingle in the north-central region. Surpluses will persist in northern Morocco and Algeria’s central coast.

Mild deficits are forecast across the Sahel, and relatively normal conditions in West African nations along the northern shore of the Gulf of Guinea. Africa’s southern half will remain a patchwork of water conditions. Exceptional deficits will persist in southern Gabon and emerge in northwestern Botswana. Intense deficits are also forecast in Zambia surrounding Lusaka and along the Kafue River. Deficits in western Madagascar will become extreme. Exceptional surpluses will persist in East Africa; extreme surpluses are forecast for the conjoined borders of Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Republic of the Congo; and surpluses of lesser intensity are forecast for westernmost Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The forecast for October through December indicates severe to extreme deficits across the Sahara and northern Sahel, primarily moderate deficits in central Africa, and mild deficits in the south. In East Africa, surpluses will retreat considerably in Kenya and Uganda, downgrade to severe in Tanzania, and emerge in northern Zambia, Malawi, and northwestern Mozambique.

The forecast for the final quarter – January through March – indicates that deficits will moderate across the north; emerge with severe to extreme intensity in West Africa, Gabon, and southern Somalia; and intensify to primarily moderate levels in southern Africa. Little change is expected in surplus conditions in East Africa.

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

Amid growing concerns over water scarcity due to climate change, population growth, and water allocation from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Egypt's prime minister has announced an "urgent plan" to develop the country's water resources and achieve water security. The plan includes new purification and desalination plants. In early June, a month prior to the plan's announcement, the federal government raised the price of piped drinking water by nearly 50 percent.

Egypt's population boom has put increased pressure on water resources for agriculture, threatening the nation's food security. In response, the Ministry of Social Solidarity is actively promoting family planning including free birth control and literacy efforts through a campaign called "Two is Enough" in the hopes of stabilizing birth rates. The campaign will include messaging on billboards, media, and "tuk-tuks," three-wheeled motorized rickshaws.

Drought, failed harvests, and high food prices in the Sahel region of Africa are causing severe acute malnutrition in 1.6 million children, a 50 percent increase since the region’s last food crisis in 2012. A representative from the World Food Programme warned of compounding problems of extremist influences on a poor and hungry populous, noting the presence of Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in the region.

One person was killed and two others injured in eastern Sudan last month amid a scramble for water at a regional water station sourced from the Nile Valley and the Blue Nile River. After a three-day cut in the area’s water supplies ended, thirsty crowds rushed to the station, knocking down an electrical pole, electrocuting the three people.

Cape Verde is facing its worst drought since 1977, according to the island country’s agriculture minister. The Poiliao dam, which was overflowing only two years ago, the country’s largest, is now dry.

Heavy rains that have flooded parts of East Africa since late March continued last month, upping the death toll to nearly 500. Thousands of displaced people lack access to food and health services, while some routes for humanitarian services were destroyed by flooding. Travel between Ethiopia and Kenya was halted when fresh floods overflowed the bordering River Daua. Homes, crops and infrastructure in Uganda have been destroyed since the flooding rains began. 

Heavy rainfall flooded the coastal city of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, killing at least 18 people and displacing hundreds from their homes in mid-June. 

In late-June, seven people died after being swept away by floodwaters in the southern Ashanti Region of Ghana. Torrential rains pounded the region for seven hours, submerging bridges and busy roads. Following the deluge, the mayor of the region’s capital, Kumasi, announced that all houses constructed in city waterways will be torn down to mitigate flood risk. He further blamed residents who illegally dump garbage in waterways, thereby clogging the city’s drainage system.

By 2020, Nigeria and 29 other African nations comprising roughly 150 million people, will be insured for a collective $1.5 billion against drought, flood, and cyclone disasters. Africa Risk Capacity, an agency of the African Union, says that the insurance scheme relies on member countries paying into the pool in addition to donors who support more fiscally constrained nations.

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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