Africa: Water deficits recede in Somalia & Southern Africa

24 January 2018

The 12-month forecast (below) indicates severe water deficits across much of northern Africa with exceptional deficits in the northwest, including Morocco, Western Sahara, and much of Mauritania. Exceptional deficits are also forecast for southern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon.

Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for central Africa, southern Africa, and the Horn of Africa, where deficits may be more severe in southern Somalia.

Surpluses are predicted for southeastern Sudan into South Sudan, northern Ethiopia, along the border of Cameroon and Central African Republic, western Democratic Republic of the Congo, east-central Angola, western and southeastern Tanzania reaching into northern Mozambique, and northern Madagascar. Surpluses are expected to be exceptional in western Tanzania and a small pocket of southern Sudan.

The countdown to Cape Town South Africa’s “Day Zero,” the day the city is expected to run out of potable water, moved closer by one week to April 12. Officials say Day Zero could be avoided but only if the necessary water projects are implemented and all citizens cut water use to 87 liters (23 gallons) of water per day. As of 22 January, only 41 percent of Capetonians have managed to limit water use to the specified rate and dams serving the city are at a collective 27.2 percent capacity.

South African maize farmers have planted only 70 to 75 percent of the intended acreage as planting season comes to a close. Recent drought has similarly depressed the outlook for Namibian maize crops.  

More than 70 percent of arable land in Uganda was affected by drought in 2017, contributing in part to a recent parliamentary decision to allow GMOs in the toolkit of potential agricultural solutions. GMOs have been a contentious commercial product in Africa with variable agricultural success since their introduction in 2000, and are currently grown only in Burkina Faso, Egypt, South Africa, and Sudan.

In Kenya, food imports rose 243 percent in the third quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, with prolonged drought forcing the increase.

A shortening rainy season is exacerbating the conditions of the rural poor in Madagascar, where 850,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance according to UNICEF. Villagers in the Amboasary District travel eight hours a day to collect water from the closest river. Wild cactus often provides the sole source of sustenance as traditional farming livelihoods become increasingly untenable.

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

The near-term forecast through March indicates that, while large pockets of exceptional deficit will retreat, deficits of varying severity are forecast throughout Africa punctuated by some lingering areas of significant surplus. More specifically, exceptional deficits in the Horn of Africa will downgrade to merely mild. Primarily moderate deficits are expected across northern Africa, with more severe conditions persisting in Morocco, Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau, and pockets of exceptional deficit peppered across the southern Sahara into the Sahel. Severe to exceptional deficits will persist in southeastern Nigeria, southwestern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in central Africa, western Zambia, Zimbabwe, and southern Mozambique. Deficits in southern Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa will retreat, leaving primarily mild conditions.

Exceptional water surpluses are expected to linger in southern Sudan, with surpluses of lesser intensity reaching into northeastern South Sudan. In western Tanzania, too, conditions of exceptional surplus remain in the forecast, along with surpluses in the south and across the border into northern Mozambique. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for central and northern Madagascar. Moderate to extreme surplus conditions are forecast for western Democratic Republic of the Congo. Exceptional surpluses in eastern Angola will downgrade.  

From April through June deficits across northern Africa will intensify, with severe deficits prevailing along with pockets of exceptional deficit. Note the contrast with the rest of the continent south of the Sahara where primarily mild to moderate deficits are forecast. Previously described surplus conditions are expected to diminish overall, leaving some intense surpluses in southeastern Sudan, emerging surpluses in northwest Ethiopia, and pockets of moderate surplus in western and southeastern Tanzania into northeastern Mozambique, and northern Madagascar.

The forecast for the final quarter – June through August 2018 – indicates conditions similar to those forecast for the preceding three months but with an increase in the extent of surplus conditions in Ethiopia.

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

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. 


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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