Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean: Intense water deficits forecast in Panama

27 March 2019

The 12-month forecast ending November 2019 indicates exceptional water deficits in Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, and severe to extreme deficits in western Jalisco, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Chiapas.

Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for central Baja, southern Chihuahua, pockets in the central states, around the Gulf of Mexico, and the Yucatan.

Exceptional surpluses are expected in a pocket of northern Chihuahua, moderate to severe surpluses in northern Coahuila and the northern extreme of Baja, and moderate surpluses in southeastern Chihuahua and eastern Durango.

In Central America, exceptional deficits are forecast in Panama, severe to extreme deficits in Costa Rica, and moderate to severe deficits in Guatemala, El Salvador, and western Honduras and Nicaragua. Moderate surpluses are expected in east-central Nicaragua. Primarily moderate deficits are expected in Haiti and Dominican Republic.

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

The forecast through May indicates a patchwork of water anomalies in the region. In Mexico, moderate to extreme deficits are forecast in Nayarit, Guerrero, Chiapas, and Yucatan; and moderate deficits in central and southern Baja, southern Chihuahua, and Durango. Small, isolated pockets of intense deficit will pepper the southern states. A wide path of both deficit and surplus conditions is forecast from southern Durango arcing southeast through Morelos as deficits emerge in areas of prior surplus. Regions forecast with surpluses include a pocket in western Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, Nuevo León, southern Tamaulipas, eastern San Luis Potosí, Distrito Federal, and northern Oaxaca into central Veracruz.

In Central America, exceptional deficits are expected in western Panama and pockets of moderate deficit in Guatemala and western Honduras. Remaining regions are expected to see conditions of both deficit and surplus as transitions occur, with some pockets of surplus persisting. In the Caribbean, moderate deficits are forecast for Dominican Republic.

From June through August, surpluses in Mexico will nearly disappear. Moderate deficits are forecast for Baja and along the mainland across the Gulf of California. From Nayarit through the western states and between the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Tehuantepec, severe to extreme deficits are forecast. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in Guatemala, El Salvador, western Honduras, western Nicaragua, and eastern Panama. Intense deficits are forecast for Costa Rica and western Panama. Surpluses are forecast around Laguna de Perlas in eastern Nicaragua and in Colon, Honduras. Moderate deficits are forecast in Haiti and severe deficits in eastern Jamaica.

For the final three months – September through November – moderate to severe deficits will cover Mexico’s southern half as well as much of Central America. Exceptional deficits will persist in Costa Rica and western Panama.

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

Over 100,000 people have been affected by water shortages in Costa Rica, particularly in the greater metropolitan area encompassing San José, the nation's capital. The Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute warned that residents could suffer periods of up to 12 hours without running water, adding that people should reduce water usage and prepare for scheduled water outages if the drought persists, taking advantage of water truck deliveries.

High temperatures and lack of rain across the Yucatán Peninsula have caused one of the most extreme droughts in the last 20 years in Yucatán State. Residents are required to report any fire, no matter the size, to emergency services. Regional meteorological services are forecasting a cold front in late March expected to relieve the situation with some rain, before a return to drought. The drought has prevailed since last year and is exacerbated by this year’s El Niño phenomenon.

The last four months have been the driest in the history of the Panama Canal, prompting restrictions on the draft of shipping vessels that pass through. Reducing the draft has the ripple effect of reducing loads, and thereby, reducing collected tolls. Cargo through the Canal generates $3 billion annually, and the last El Niño reduced revenues by $40 million according to a Canal administration official.

A dry spell currently affecting the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean Islands is reportedly considered to be one of the worst in 50 years. While recent lack of moisture in the Dominican Republic has prevented infection of crop fungus, many banana producers have reduced cultivation due to strained water resources.

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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