Middle East: Exceptional water deficits to persist in southern Iraq & in Kuwait

23 August 2018

The forecast for the 12-month period ending April 2019 (below) indicates a range of intense deficits for many parts of the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Levant, and relatively moderate conditions elsewhere in the region.

Extreme to exceptional deficits are expected to dominate northern Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan, United Arab Emirates, southwest Yemen, and Georgia. Primarily severe deficits are forecast for West Bank, southern Israel, Iraq west of the Euphrates River, Kuwait, southern Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Deficits of varying severity are forecast for central Turkey and much of Iran. Mixed conditions are forecast for Syria. Some surpluses are forecast for southern Armenia, northwestern Iran, and along Iran’s central Caspian Sea coast.

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

As is apparent in the map series, the forecast indicates that intense deficits will persist in many parts of the region through October after which conditions will moderate overall. For the next several months, severe to exceptional deficits are forecast for Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Conditions in Gaza and Israel will be fairly intense as well. Primarily severe deficits are forecast for West Bank, Yemen, western Oman, Qatar, and western Iraq. Deficits of varying severity are forecast for the bulk of Iran but are expected to be exceptional in large pockets of Fars, Kerman, South Khorasan, and Hormozgan Provinces in the south. Deficits of varying severity are also forecast for Georgia and for the remainder of the Levant, with extreme conditions in a pocket of central Turkey. Surpluses will persist along the northern Iraq/Iran border and in a small patch along Iran’s central Caspian Sea coast.

From November through January, exceptional deficits in the region will nearly disappear, leaving mostly moderate to extreme deficits in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq west of the Euphrates River. Deficits will moderate in Iran, UAE, and Jordan; become merely mild in Qatar, Oman, and near the Mediterranean; and will transition to surplus in central Turkey. Deficits will remain intense in western Georgia, however.

In the final quarter – February through April – anomaly patterns are expected to be similar to the preceding quarter though severe deficits will expand in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and conditions in Georgia will normalize.

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

Local authorities in southern Iraq estimate that 30 percent of cattle across the region have either died from thirst or been sold for slaughter during the recent drought. Locals in the Mesopotamian Marshes, one of the largest wetlands in the region, have begun to see their neighbors fleeing the region to try making a living elsewhere, as trucks deliver much of the scant water supply to cattle farmers for a hefty price. Others have resorted to taking out loans to cover the drop in cattle sales revenue, and recently took to the streets to request pushing back the timeline for repayment.

Cultivated area in Iraq was halved this summer relative to last year, resulting from this year’s unprecedented ban on water-intensive crops including rice, corn, and other cereal grains.

Water politics have added to the stress of the drought on Iraq’s water supply. In recent years both Turkey and Iran have modified a number of trans-boundary rivers shared with Iraq. Turkey recently began filling the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River, further culling Iraq’s freshwater resources. Protests broke out last month over water shortages, power shortages, and other public services. Fourteen people were killed among the demonstrations, which took place in scorching summer temperatures.

Amid record-breaking temperatures in Israel, electricity usage reached an all-time high in July and several forest fires broke out. The Negev Desert was officially declared drought-stricken, opening up relief funds for farmers whose crops have suffered from water shortage.

Five years of drought have intensified levels of potentially fatal bacteria in Israel’s northern rivers. Israel’s national water company began pumping water into rivers in an effort to clear them of Leptospirosis-causing bacteria which have infected dozens of bathers. With rising incidence of the disease, tourism at vacation sites in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights regions has dropped 30 percent. Health experts suspect that the spread of the disease, which is borne in animal urine, was caused by large numbers of wild boar that have been driven to huddle near the streams due to the recent drought.

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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