Middle East: Intense water deficits ahead include S Iraq & Kuwait

26 September 2018

The forecast for the 12-month period ending May 2019 indicates deficits ranging from mild to exceptional for much of the region. Areas of exceptional deficit include Saudi Arabia along the northern Red Sea, southern Jordan, United Arab Emirates, western Oman, southwestern Yemen, and Iran along the northern Persian Gulf.

Severe to extreme deficit anomalies are forecast for much of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, southern Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, central Turkey, Georgia, and a vast expanse of central Iran.

Primarily severe deficits are forecast for Cyprus, Israel, West Bank, southern Syria, and Iraq west of the Euphrates River.

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

As is apparent in the map series, the forecast indicates intense deficits for much of the Arabian Peninsula, southern and western Iraq, and the bulk of southern Iran through November after which conditions will downgrade considerably.

For the next several months extreme to exceptional deficits will dominate much of Saudi Arabia, southern and western Iraq, Kuwait, large pockets of southern Iran, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Cyprus, Lebanon, southern Israel, West Bank, and Jordan, with more intense deficits along Jordan’s border with Saudi Arabia. Some surpluses are expected in northwestern Syria, along the northern Iran/Iraq border, and in southwestern Turkey. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for the remainder of Turkey and will be most intense in central Turkey, along its northeastern coast, and through Georgia.

From December through February deficits will downgrade considerably leaving primarily severe conditions in Georgia, southeastern Iran’s Kerman Province, and western Yemen; primarily moderate conditions in Saudi Arabia, eastern Yemen, and central Iran; and mild deficit conditions elsewhere. Some moderate surpluses are expected to persist south of Lake Urmia in Iran and in isolated pockets of Turkey.

In the final quarter – March through May – deficits are expected to increase in the region overall and will be particularly intense on the Arabian Peninsula, with severe to exceptional anomalies.

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

Widespread protests over failures in basic water and power infrastructure have stirred Basra, Iraq since early July and resulted in 13 deaths. Failing water infrastructure and saltwater intrusion led to contaminated drinking water, reportedly causing hundreds of incidences of plague-like symptoms in the local population and contributing to the unrest. Drought and damming operations have depleted the Tigris River which formerly supplied drinking water to the city. Nearly 30 percent of the Tigris waters originate in Iran, which has dammed its tributaries in recent years. The Daryan Dam, completed mere months ago, decreased the flow of the Sirwan River into the Tigris by up to 60 percent. Turkey, too, has diverted water from the Tigris and other rivers upstream of the Iraqi border.

Following the protests in Basra and other Iraqi cities, Iran resumed supplying electricity to Iraq and other neighboring countries last month. Iran stopped supplying power across its borders in July when Iranian demand rose for the summer and Iraqi bills went unpaid. Additionally, recent drought depleted Iranian rivers, reducing hydropower production. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia stepped in last month, offering to sell electricity to Iraq at a discount in a political move aimed to reduce Iranian influence on Iraq.

A downpour of heavy rain pelted nearly two million Muslim pilgrims from around the world beginning this year’s annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia. The squall, which lasted around an hour, forced pilgrims to take shelter as flood warnings were issued for an evening.

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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