South America: Water deficits to downgrade in Brazil but remain widespread

26 October 2018

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast through June 2019 indicates significant water deficits in central Brazil and primarily moderate deficits throughout the rest of the country. Deficits may be exceptional in Pará, Tocantins, and Mato Grosso, as well as farther south in São Paulo. Deficits are also forecast for Brazil’s northern neighbors.

Intense deficits are expected in southern coastal Peru; along a path in south-central Bolivia beginning near Cochabamba; much of Chile but particularly the north; and along the Ríos Chubut and Chico in Patagonia.

Areas of surplus include: Rio Grande do Sul in southern Brazil; Uruguay; northeastern Argentina, and Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and central Neuquen Provinces in Argentina; and Patagonia surrounding O’Higgins/San Martín Lake and Río Santa Cruz.

FORECAST BREAKDOWN
The 3-month maps (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions in greater detail.

The extent of exceptional deficits in the region will diminish considerably over the next several months. Through December, moderate deficits are forecast throughout most of Brazil but more intense patches are expected across the north, in the center of the country (Mato Grosso), and in the states of São Paulo and Paraná. Severe deficits are forecast for Guyana, and severe to extreme deficits in northern Venezuela. Intense deficits are also forecast in Bolivia from east of La Paz through Cochabamba to the south, and from southern Peru through the Atacama Desert in northern Chile past Santiago. Moderate to severe surpluses will persist in Uruguay and will emerge in nearby Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Surpluses of similar intensity are forecast for Entre Rios and Buenos Aires Provinces in Argentina, and in Patagonia around O’Higgins/San Martín Lake and Río Santa Cruz.

From January through March, deficit conditions in Brazil will continue to improve, with many regions returning to normal or mild to moderate deficit, though deficits may be more intense in Roraima and northern Mato Grosso. Deficits will persist in northern Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Some pockets of deficit in northern Colombia will increase in intensity while the central part of the country transitions out of surplus to mild deficit. Deficits are forecast for coastal and southern Peru, and much of Chile, where conditions will be especially intense in the north. In Bolivia, deficits in the south are expected to moderate. Surpluses will persist in southern Brazil and Uruguay and increase in northeastern Argentina.

In the final quarter – April through June – deficits will become more widespread in Brazil but will be merely mild to moderate; will decrease in its northern neighbors; will increase and intensify in Peru; and will remain intense in northern Chile. Surpluses are forecast for southern Brazil, Uruguay, and northeastern Argentina.

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

IMPACTS
Argentina is launching a $600 billion satellite project to monitor soil moisture and natural disasters in order to support its agricultural sector. The satellite will provide real-time mapping of water in the country, allowing for more precise predictions of harvest yields, floods, and droughts. The project is expected to yield a $5 to $7 return for every dollar invested, according to the Executive and Technical Director for Argentina’s National Space Activities Commission. The technology is the first of its kind to be used in Argentina.

Drought has forced a Canadian mining company to temporarily shut down its gold mine in Riacho dos Machados, a municipality of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The mine closed last year but reopened with the benefit of a water dam and pipeline opened in 2017, only to have reservoir levels drop low enough this year to again close operations. The company expects to resume operations at the mine in early December, allowing time for the reservoir to fill, and to complete installation of a powerline and tailings dam lift. The company will also evaluate ways to reduce water consumption.

Low snow melt and lack of rain has contributed to water scarcity in 76 communes of Chile. While officials assure that reservoir levels will provide sufficient drinking water during this year’s dry season, they remain cautious about the near future as rivers in the Atacama Region are flowing 50 to 70 percent below capacity. To address future needs, several new water projects are already underway at a cost of 5.4 million dollars, including new reservoirs in the province of Limarí, the Petorca district, Chironta in Arica, and Punilla in the Ñuble Region.

Roughly 300 houses were flooded after heavy rains overflowed a canal in the Colombian municipality El Carmen de Bolívar.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
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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