South Asia: Intense water deficits will increase in Afghanistan

23 July 2018

The 12-month forecast indicates exceptional water deficits in Afghanistan’s northern half and deficits of varying severity throughout much of the rest of the country. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for southern Baluchistan, Pakistan.

In India, intense deficits are expected at the intersection of Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, and also at the country’s southernmost tip. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast in a vast band from Gujarat through the center of the county and into the Gangetic Plain, but deficits may be severe in northern Gujarat and central Madhya Pradesh. Deficits are also forecast for India’s Far Northeast. Surpluses are forecast for Jammu and Kashmir in the north and Tripura and Mizoram in the far east.

Elsewhere in the region, surpluses are expected in Bangladesh that will be of exceptional intensity in the east, as will those in central Nepal along the Gandaki River. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for Sri Lanka.

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

From July through September exceptional deficits in Afghanistan, already widespread, will increase, reaching the southern border to dominate roughly two-thirds of the country. Deficits in southern Pakistan are expected to shrink and moderate, persisting in southwestern Baluchistan. Some moderate surplus is forecast along the Indus River in the north.

In India, primarily moderate deficits will persist in a wide band across the center of the country. But while deficits in Madhya Pradesh are expected to downgrade from exceptional, they will be severe. Severe deficits are also forecast for Chhattisgarh, and deficits may reach exceptional intensity in Jharkhand and southwestern Odisha. Deficits will increase and intensify in southern India, becoming severe to extreme, particularly in Kerala. Moderate to severe deficits are expected to emerge in the Far Northeast. Surpluses will shrink in Jammu and Kashmir.

Surpluses will also shrink in Nepal, persisting with exceptional intensity on the Gandaki River, and some deficits will emerge in the southwest and southeast. Bhutan will transition from surplus to mild deficit, and surpluses in Bangladesh will shrink and downgrade. In Sri Lanka, deficits are forecast in the north, and both deficits and surpluses in the south.

From October through December, deficits in Afghanistan will downgrade, becoming primarily moderate, but deficits may be severe along the Helmand and Harirud Rivers, and even more intense in a few pockets in the north. Moderate deficits will increase across southern Pakistan, while surpluses along the Indus River in the north will transition to normal conditions. Primarily moderate deficits will continue to emerge across India’s northern half, as well as in the Far Northeast. However, some more intense pockets are forecast in western Gujarat, Rajasthan, and central Madhya Pradesh. Deficits in the south are expected to moderate. In Nepal, conditions along the Gandaki River will transition from surplus to normal, and moderate deficits are forecast in much of the rest of the country. Deficits are also forecast for Bhutan, and may be severe in the west. Conditions in Bangladesh will return to near-normal, with some moderate surpluses in the east and across the border into India. Moderate surpluses are also forecast for Sri Lanka.

The forecast for the final period – January through March – indicates that deficits will diminish significantly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mild to severe deficits are forecast for India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

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

Thousands of people across multiple states in India’s northeast were displaced by monsoon flooding last month. By the end of June flood-related deaths in the state of Assam rose to 31, and more than 70,000 people were affected.

The floodwaters created outbreaks of waterborne diseases, particularly in rural areas where wells were contaminated with bacteria-polluted water. In the northeastern states of Assam and Manipur, 70 percent of flood-affected people have been diagnosed with waterborne illnesses, including skin allergies, gastrointenstinal, fever, and blood pressure problems, due to stagnant water as well as consumption of untreated water.

Several schools in Mumbai were shut down at the peak of relentless downpours early this month, and 170.6mm (6.7 inches) of rain was recorded over a 24-hour period. Monsoon-related incidents killed 28 people in the south Indian state of Kerala over a 10-day period in July, and sent 86,000 into temporary shelters. And at least 107 people have died in the state since the onset of the season in late May.

In spite of the destructive force of recent flooding, this season’s monsoon rain levels were down eight percent from last year’s country-wide, as of late June, impacting the sowing of the rainy season kharif crops.

Water shortages, too, abound in India, notably in the capital New Delhi. Fighting over water claimed the lives of three people in the city. A think tank chaired by the country’s prime minister reported that India is in its worst long-term water crisis in history. The cities of Delhi and Bengaluru are both expected to run out of groundwater by 2020.

In Pakistan, the Tarbela Dam reached "dead level" - the level at which water must be pumped rather than drained - in July during monsoon season. A spokesman for the Indus Water Authority said that overall water storage in the country was at .8 million acres feet compared to 7 million acres feet at the same time last year. Rawal Lake - a reservoir that provides water for Islamabad and Rawalpindi - is almost entirely dry. Drought and mismanagement are cited as causes of the lake's demise amid a long-term water crisis in the country.

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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