Middle East: Exceptional water deficits will retreat but widespread deficits will persist

24 January 2018

The forecast for the 12-month period ending September 2018 (below) indicates water deficits throughout the region.

Severe to exceptional deficits are forecast for southeastern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq west of the Euphrates River and southern Iraq, most of Iran, northern Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates.

Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for much of the remainder of Turkey, along with Yemen and southern Oman. Mild deficits are expected in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and slightly more severe conditions in Georgia. 

In spite of some flooding and landslides, Jordanian farmers welcomed a day of rain in early January during an agricultural season plagued by looming drought. Though far below last year's figure of nearly 44 percent, dams across the country reached almost 25 percent of total capacity. Efforts to increase water supply and make other water sector improvements cost Jordan over $1 billion USD in 2017.

As Israel passed its fourth year of drought, the Minister of Agriculture rallied worshippers in a prayer for rain in late December. Mere days later Israel experienced its worst storm of the season, which produced 60-centimeter (23.6-inch) high flooding in Herzliya and prompted the Israel Defense Forces to warn hikers in the north and the Golan Heights to beware of landmines carried by floodwaters.

Several leaders of an Israeli water cartel formed in 2004 were sentenced to prison for having inflated water prices by 20 percent between 2004 and 2009.

Iran’s Meteorological Organization reports that 96 percent of the country's total area is suffering from prolonged drought. Khuzestan province could face electricity shortages by winter's end as depleted water supplies impact hydroelectric production. The province experienced serious water shortages this past summer along with temperatures reaching 60 Celsius (140F). Khuzestan's Governor General reports that the Karoun River, a major source of drinking water for the region, has dropped to dangerously low levels with dams along its path only 40 percent full. A recently completed irrigation channel will syphon water from the Karoun to nearby provinces to help control Iran's increasing problem with dust pollution, which forced closure of 15 Khuzestan schools in January.  

Cycles of drought have been linked to some of Iran’s biggest economic challenges, and some experts have begun to include water woes in the list of factors contributing to recent protests in the country.

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

As is apparent in the map series, widespread exceptional deficits observed in the prior three months are expected to moderate considerably through March. However intense deficits will continue to emerge in southeastern Turkey, Syria, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast throughout Iran. Deficits in Qatar, UAE, and Yemen will downgrade to primarily moderate.

After March, deficits on the Arabian Peninsula are expected to resume prior intensity, becoming extreme to exceptional in Syria, Jordan, northern Saudi Arabia, Iraq west of the Euphrates and southern Iraq, central Iran and along Iran’s Persian Gulf coast and pockets of southern Iran. Deficits will elevate to extreme in Qatar and UAE, and severe in Yemen. Though deficits in southeastern Turkey will downgrade from exceptional to severe, widespread deficits will emerge throughout the country and in nearby Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

The forecast for the final quarter indicates a continued increase in the extent and intensity of deficits in the region.

(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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