Southeast Asia & the Pacific: Water deficits forecast for Cambodia, Thailand, & Philippines

28 February 2019

The 12-month forecast through October 2019 indicates severe to exceptional water deficits in much of western Cambodia and in Thailand. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for the Philippines, pockets of peninsular Malaysia, southern Sumatra and a pocket in the north, northeastern and southern Borneo, and Sulawesi. Deficits are also forecast for New Guinea and will be exceptional in Papua New Guinea around the western shore of the Gulf of Papua.

Surpluses are forecast for western Myanmar, north-central Laos, and northern and eastern Vietnam. Surpluses are expected to be exceptional in pockets of western Myanmar. Surpluses of varying intensity are forecast for pockets of Sumatra, Java, Flores Island, and the Bird’s Head Peninsula on New Guinea.

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

The near-term forecast through April indicates that exceptional deficits in western Cambodia will shrink somewhat but persist. Deficits in Thailand will downgrade but remain widespread. Conditions of both deficit and surplus (purple) are forecast in Myanmar as transitions occur, and deficits will emerge in the north, while moderate surpluses persist in the center of the country leading northeast and in peninsular Myanmar. Moderate to severe surpluses are forecast for much of Vietnam with exceptional conditions in the north including Hanoi, and exceptional surpluses will persist in north-central Laos while transitions occur nearby and in other areas of the country.

Deficits are forecast for the Philippines, eastern Borneo, northern Sulawesi, pockets in northern and southern Sumatra, and central New Guinea. Deficits will be intense in eastern Luzon (Philippines), Sumatra and around the Gulf of Papua in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for western Indonesian Borneo, southern Sulawesi, eastern Java, and the Bird’s Head Peninsula and north-central New Guinea. Surpluses on Flores Island will downgrade from exceptional to severe.

From May through July, surpluses in Southeast Asia will nearly disappear as moderate deficits emerge. Deficits in Cambodia and Thailand will moderate overall, and moderate deficits are forecast for eastern Myanmar, Laos, and northwestern and southern Vietnam. Moderate to severe deficits will emerge on the Malay Peninsula. Deficits are also forecast for the Philippines, northeastern Malaysian Borneo, southern Borneo, southernmost Sumatra, and pockets of Sulawesi. Deficits will increase in New Guinea but will downgrade slightly around the Gulf of Papua. Scattered surpluses are forecast for Java and Flores Island.

The forecast for the final months – August through October – indicates moderate to severe deficit conditions in many parts of the region, with more intense conditions in eastern Luzon and the Lesser Sunda Islands.

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

Floods, landslides, and a tornado killed at least 70 people and displaced 9,500 on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last month. Thousands of acres of rice paddies, and thousands of houses, were submerged in the disaster, prompting the Indonesian government to declare emergency status for South Sulawesi.

Heavy rain lasting weeks in Papua New Guinea last month caused flooding that killed at least nine people.

Thailand is beginning its hot, dry season with meteorological projections of diminished precipitation over the seasonal average. Reservoirs across the country are already at critical storage levels.

The Cambodian government issued a warning of El Niño-induced drought conditions this year and advised farmers to delay the next rice production cycle, which typically runs from May to November, and instead divert water to irrigate other crops. This month the Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management began attempts across eight provinces to save thousands of acres of dry-season paddy from drought by transferring water from up to 100km (62 miles) away.

Heavy rain caused flooding that killed at least 13 people and hundreds of thousands of livestock in central Vietnam in December. Hundreds evacuated their homes in Malaysia when heavy monsoonal rains flooded parts of Terengganu state.

Weeks later, storms swept through the central Philippines, killing four people in landslides.

Survivors of a catastrophic flood in southern Laos caused by a burst dam six months ago are now reportedly suffering from dengue and malnutrition. Local health authorities claimed that the district in which the disaster occurred is the epicenter of the most severe national dengue outbreak in decades. Meanwhile malnutrition is pernicious among refugee camps, as food stocks run low and crop harvesting won’t occur in the area until October.

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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