Southeast Asia & the Pacific: Water deficits expected to increase in Thailand

25 October 2018

The 12-month forecast through June 2019 indicates intense water surpluses in Myanmar, northern Laos, eastern Cambodia into Vietnam, and northern Vietnam. Significant deficits are forecast for western Cambodia and Thailand and are forecast to be exceptional in Cambodia.

Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for pockets of Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, and much of Papua New Guinea. Deficits are expected to be extreme to exceptional in Palawan (Philippines), and Papua New Guinea.

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

NOTE: The WSIM model makes use of seasonal temperature and precipitation forecasts produced by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2). These forecasts predict broad temperature and precipitation patterns, but do not effectively predict singular events such as tropical storms. Detailed outlooks and analyses of tropical storms are available from NOAA National Hurricane Center.

The near-term forecast through December indicates that surpluses in the region will shrink and downgrade, but exceptional conditions remain in the forecast for western Myanmar and northern Laos. Surpluses nearly as intense are expected in northern Vietnam. Moderate deficits will emerge in central Vietnam, and exceptional deficits will persist in the bulk of western Cambodia. Moderate to extreme deficits will increase in Thailand and will emerge in eastern and southern Sumatra. Nearby Java will downgrade to primarily moderate deficits and neighboring islands to the east will transition from surplus to deficit, as will the Philippines. Deficits in Papua New Guinea are expected to moderate and conditions in eastern Papua, Indonesia will transition from surplus to mild deficit.

From January through March many regions of prior surplus will begin to transition, with both surpluses and deficits forecast (purple), including Myanmar, Laos, eastern Cambodia, the Mekong River, and Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Exceptional deficits will shrink slightly in western Cambodia, deficits will increase in Thailand, and emerge in central and southern Vietnam and central and southern Myanmar. Deficits in the Philippines will intensify overall as will deficits in Papua New Guinea. Though deficits in Indonesia are forecast to shrink and downgrade, with some moderate surpluses emerging in central Java, severe deficits are forecast for southern Sulawesi.

The forecast for the final months – April through June – indicates primarily moderate deficit conditions for many parts of the region

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

Typhoon Mangkhut, the most powerful storm anywhere on the planet this year, killed at least 74 people and destroyed infrastructure across the northern Philippines last month. Tuguegarao airport in northern Luzon was damaged, knocking out a vital transportation hub for use in humanitarian aid work. Known locally in the Philippines as Typhoon Ompong, the storm affected over 1.6 million people, and caused an estimated P17.9 billion (USD $330,630) worth of total damages. Widespread flooding reached 200 miles to the country’s capital city of Manila.

Levels at many reservoirs in Thailand have fallen below the 60 percent baseline, raising alarms about emerging drought risks. As of the end of September, the Ubanrot Dam in the northeast was at 11 percent, the Mae Mok Dam in the north was at 15 percent, and the Thap Salao Dam in the central region was at 18 percent.

Drought in Cambodia is coercing farmers with outstanding loans to migrate to urban areas and enter debt-bonded labor in the country’s growing brick industry, riding a national construction boom. Kiln workers both live and work at the brick kilns, often taking on more debt in the rainy season when brick work slows and kiln owners prevent them from finding work elsewhere.

Vietnamese schoolchildren in the Van Luong commune started the school year this year reportedly traveling up to 20km (12.4 mi) per day to get to school, as local bridges remained damaged from devastating flooding in August.

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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