South Asia: Exceptional water deficits will persist in Afghanistan

23 August 2018

The 12-month forecast through April 2019 indicates exceptional water deficits in Afghanistan’s northern half, and deficits of varying severity throughout much of the rest of the country and into southern Pakistan. Deficits are also expected to be exceptional near Karachi, Pakistan.

In India, deficits are forecast in large pockets in the southern half of the country and will be exceptional at the intersection of Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, and in southern Tamil Nadu. Deficits are also forecast for India’s Far Northeast.

Exceptional surpluses are expected in Bangladesh; Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, and Jammu and Kashmir, India; central Nepal and pockets of western Bhutan. Surpluses of varying intensity are expected along rivers in northern Pakistan; in Uttar Pradesh, India; southwestern Sri Lanka; and most of Nepal.

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

From August through October exceptional deficits will dominate Afghanistan’s west and northwest, with primarily moderate deficits in the remainder of the country. Neighboring Pakistan will see extreme deficits in the southwest. Exceptional surpluses are forecast along the Indus River’s northern route in Pakistan, both deficits and surpluses along its central path, and moderate surpluses on the lower reaches of the river as it approaches the Arabian Sea. In India, primarily moderate deficits will cover much of the southern two-thirds of the country with pockets of more intense deficits in western Telangana, northeastern and central Karnataka, southeastern Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and central Chhattisgarh.

Surpluses in Uttar Pradesh will downgrade to severe but farther north in Jammu and Kashmir conditions will be more intense in some areas. Some moderate surpluses are forecast for West Bengal, and surpluses in Tripura, Manipur, and Nagaland will downgrade from exceptional but remain fairly intense. Similarly, in nearby Bangladesh, surpluses will downgrade from exceptional but will be extreme. Exceptional surpluses will persist on the Gandaki River through Nepal, while surpluses in eastern Nepal retreat and surpluses in western Nepal moderate. Surpluses in Sri Lanka will retreat as well. Conditions in Sri Lanka are expected to be near-normal.

From November through January, widespread exceptional deficits in Afghanistan will nearly disappear, but intense deficits are forecast along the Hari Rud River in the west, especially near Herat, and in the northeastern part of the country. Some moderate deficits are forecast for southern Pakistan and surpluses in the far north. In India, primarily moderate deficits remain in the forecast for much of the country south of Delhi, but exceptional deficits will emerge in southern Gujarat, and deficits in Arunachal Pradesh in the Far Northeast will intensify. Surpluses will downgrade and shrink in Nepal and downgrade slightly in Bangladesh.

The forecast for the final period – February through April – indicates that deficits will nearly disappear in Afghanistan and Pakistan, transitioning to moderate surplus in some pockets of the north. Deficits will downgrade in Gujarat and will intensify in Kerala, becoming exceptional.

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

Cumulative precipitation over the last rainy season was 30 to 60 percent lower than average in 22 Afghanistan provinces in what’s being called the worst drought in decades. The UN reported last month that drought and conflict have prompted over 50,000 people to migrate from Badghis and Ghor provinces to Herat city, most of whom now live in dilapidated conditions with tents or makeshift shelters. Extended drought conditions in northwest Afghanistan threaten food security for over two million people in an area dependent on primarily rain-fed agriculture. The situation has been exacerbated by deforestation over decades of war and mismanagement of resources.

At least 324 people have been killed in monsoon flooding in the southern Indian state of Kerala, which a regional official described as the worst the state had seen in 100 years. Many of the victims were crushed under debris from landslides caused by the torrential rains. Kerala’s main airport is expected to be closed for a week and a half, as more rains are forecast as of mid-August. Hundreds of troops were deployed on boats and helicopters in rescue operations.

Rain pummeled the northeastern Indian state of Bihar last month, flooding homes and some hospitals with a mixture of rain water and storm drain water. Fish swam by empty cots in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Patna, the state capital. Monsoonal rains across northern India killed 58 people and flooded several tourist sites including the Taj Mahal. Delhi’s Old Yamuna Bridge was closed temporarily when the water level in the Yamuna River reached dangerous levels. Closure of the bridge cancelled 27 trains and diverted another seven. Flash floods caused heavy silting in the Sutlej River, shutting down four power projects, which in turn triggered blackouts in parts of Himachal Pradesh. Weeks later Himachal Pradesh received massive downpours that killed 19 people.

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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