Middle East: Water deficits forecast to decrease

19 November 2018

The forecast for the 12-month period ending July 2019 indicates deficits of varying intensity on the Arabian Peninsula including exceptional deficits along Saudi Arabia’s northern Red Sea coast, southwestern Yemen, western Oman, United Arab Emirates, and western Georgia.

Extreme deficits are forecast for Jordan, southern Syria, and central Iran’s Isfahan and Yazd Provinces. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for much of Turkey and will be more intense in the west. Primarily severe deficits are expected in Lebanon, West Bank, and Israel but deficits may reach extreme intensity in southern Israel and Gaza.

In Iraq, conditions west of the Euphrates will be severe with some extreme pockets in the south. Surpluses are forecast along Iran’s Caspian Sea coast.

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

Deficits are expected to shrink and downgrade significantly in the region from November through January with conditions approaching normal in Iraq, Syria, northeastern Saudi Arabia and western Iran, and overall mild deficits in Iran. Deficits will intensify, however in Georgia, and extreme deficits will emerge on the Kura River in Azerbaijan. Intense deficits are also forecast for southern Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and, to a lesser degree, western Turkey and along Turkey’s Black Sea coast.

Though exceptional deficits will downgrade from February through April, overall deficits will increase with widespread moderate to severe deficits emerging on the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, Iraq west of the Euphrates, and Iran’s eastern two-thirds, particularly Isfahan and Yazd Provinces. Severe deficits are expected along the Euphrates and severe to extreme deficits in Qatar. Some primarily moderate surpluses may emerge in northeastern Turkey; surpluses along Iran’s Caspian Sea coast will moderate.

In the final quarter – May through July – deficits are expected to increase and intensify in the region with severe to exceptional anomalies forecast for the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, western and southern Iraq, and much of Iran.

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

A particularly severe series of thunderstorms and floods in the region killed 14 people in Saudi Arabia over the last two weeks of October. Though storms are common this time of year, this year has been especially intense according to the country’s Undersecretary of the Ministry of Water.

In Jordan, the storms caused flash flooding that killed at least 21 people on the shores of the Dead Sea, most of whom were school children on a field trip. Dozens of people were rescued from the flooded valleys leading to the Dead Sea by helicopters and divers.

Floods swept six immigrants crossing the Turkey-Syria border to their deaths. Flooding in Lebanon and Turkey also swamped refugee camps, killing numbers of Syrian refugees and leaving others without shelter.

A tropical storm killed at least 12 people and injured 126 others in the eastern Yemeni province of Mahra last month. Thousands of families were displaced by the storm.

A projected 70 percent of Iranians, nearly 50 million people, will be forced to migrate to survive if the country’s water crisis continues, according to Iranian President Rouhani’s advisor in water, agriculture, and environmental affairs. Iran’s water crisis has driven over 5.5 million people to migrate internally between 2006 and 2011. Movement tends from the southern drylands northward to the green lands of Mazandaran Province along the Caspian Sea, though here, too, water shortages have begun emerging.

Amid the ebbing of Jordanian water supplies, Israel is reportedly hoping to advance the development of a canal destined for a desalination plant in Jordan, in a diplomatic exchange for renewing territorial leases of border territories of Ghumar and Baqura. Since 1994 Jordan has retained sovereignty of the two territories, with agreement to lease them to Israel under a renewable 25-year agreement. Jordan’s King Abdullah II said last month that Israel was recently notified of Jordan’s interest in taking full control of the areas upon the upcoming closure of the lease.

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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