Middle East: Water deficits to persist in southern Iraq

25 October 2018

The forecast for the 12-month period ending June 2019 indicates deficits reaching exceptional intensity on the Arabian Peninsula and moderate to severe deficits in much of Turkey and the Levant. Areas of exceptional deficit include northwestern Saudi Arabia along the northern Red Sea, southwestern Yemen, western Oman, and eastern United Arab Emirates.

In Iraq, conditions west of the Euphrates will be severe, but deficits will be even more intense in southern Iraq and into Iran along the northern Persian Gulf. Deficits of varying severity are forecast the bulk of Iran east of Tehran with intense deficits in the center of the country near Isfahan and south along the coast of the Gulf of Oman.

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

Deficits are expected to shrink and downgrade significantly in the region from October through December. Severe to exceptional deficits will persist, however, in southern Iraq around Basrah. Severe deficits are forecast for Georgia, Kuwait, most of Saudi Arabia, and into western United Arab Emirates. Deficits of varying severity are expected in Yemen and could reach exceptional intensity in some pockets in the east. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for central and southern Iran. Deficits in the Levant will be mild, and mild to moderate deficits are forecast for Turkey. Some surpluses are expected in the northern Iran/Iraq border corridor, along Iran’s Caspian Sea coast into Azerbaijan, and in northwestern Syria.

From January through March deficits will continue to downgrade, leaving moderate to severe deficits in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, primarily moderate deficits in western Iraq, central and southern Iran, western Turkey, and Georgia. Deficits elsewhere in the region will be generally mild, though conditions in Cyprus may be severe.

In the final quarter – April through June – deficits are expected to increase and intensify in the region with extreme to exceptional anomalies forecast for parts of the Arabian Peninsula and into southern Iraq.

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

Iraq is set to reduce it’s 2018-2019 winter crop planting area by 55 percent due to water shortage, with current water reserves at 4 billion cubic meters less than last year. The United Nations indicated that the planting area reduction could cut wheat output by 20 percent, necessitating higher imports.

Iran’s environment chief warned that the country is poised to lose 70 percent of its cultivated land within 20 to 30 years if the government fails to drastically change water management strategy. While global standards suggest that water consumption should be no more than 40 percent of renewable water, Iran uses about 100 percent. To cut water consumption, Iran will need to import more food rather than attempting self-sufficiency.

Pistachio farmers in Iran’s southeastern Kerman province have suffered losses of $227 million due to water shortage since the start of the Iranian calendar year, March 21.

Heavy rain in north and northwestern areas of Iran, unequaled in nearly the past two decades, killed at least seven people, destroyed infrastructure, and interrupted power services early this month. Damages to infrastructure were estimated at nearly $120 million in Mazandaran Province.

A rain storm in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku flooded several main streets and some subway stations late last month.

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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