South Asia: Water surpluses forecast to emerge in Afghanistan

21 March 2019

The 12-month forecast through November 2019 indicates intense water deficits in southern India, moderate to severe deficits across much of the center of the country and in the Far Northeast, and intense surpluses in Jammu and Kashmir in the north.

Intense surpluses are also forecast across the border in northern Pakistan and along the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab Rivers in Pakistan. Moderate deficits are expected in southwestern Pakistan.

In Afghanistan, surpluses of varying intensity are forecast east of the Helmand River from Kandahar to Kabul, and in the west from Herat to Mazar-e Sharif. Surpluses will be exceptional around Kabul, Herat, and Mazar-e-Sharif.

In central Nepal, surpluses are forecast along the Gandaki River leading into India. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for Bhutan, and moderate deficits in northern Sri Lanka.

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

The near-term forecast through May indicates that exceptional deficits will shrink and downgrade in southern India but are expected along the Tungabhadra River through Karnataka and in northern Kerala. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh; some severe to extreme pockets are forecast in Madhya Pradesh around Chhindwara in the south and northwest of Bhopal. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in India’s Far Northeast. Surpluses are forecast from Punjab through Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in the north, and in the western Gangetic Plain in Uttar Pradesh. Surpluses will be exceptional in J&K and on the Ganges and the Ghaghara Rivers until they meet, and extreme on the Ganges through Bihar. Surpluses of varying intensity are expected along the Yamuna and Chambal Rivers.

In Pakistan, intense surpluses are forecast on the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, and Sutlej Rivers and in the north. Surpluses of varying intensity will emerge in eastern Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul and in the west from Herat to Mazar-e Sharif. Surpluses will be exceptional around Kabul and from Mazar-e Sharif leading southwest. Surpluses are also forecast throughout much of Nepal, many parts of Bangladesh, and east of Bangladesh in India’s Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur regions.

From June through August, deficits in southern India will downgrade, becoming mild overall with moderate to severe deficits along the west coast and around Chennai in the southeast. Moderate deficits are forecast across much of the remainder of India, with severe deficits in a block from central Madhya Pradesh through eastern Maharashtra, southern Chhattisgarh, and southern Odisha. Surpluses will persist in J&K but surpluses in the Gangetic Plain will transition to moderate deficits. Deficits in India’s Far Northeast will intensify.

Nepal and Bangladesh will transition from surplus to primarily moderate deficit, and deficits will emerge in Bhutan. Surpluses in Pakistan and Afghanistan will shrink somewhat. Conditions on the northern portion of the Indus River in Pakistan will intensify becoming exceptional while its southern stretch and eastern tributaries downgrade. Conditions of both intense deficit and surplus are forecast for southwestern Afghanistan.

The forecast for the final months – September through November – indicates mild to moderate deficits overall in India with more intense conditions along the northern Bay of Bengal and in the Far Northeast. Intense deficits will emerge in southern Pakistan. Surpluses will downgrade somewhat in northern Pakistan and neighboring J&K, India; persist around Kabul, Afghanistan, and transition to deficit around Mazar-e Sharif.

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

Pakistan experienced record snowfall in early February, raising hopes that acute water shortages in the country will soon abate. Over six feet of snow fell in parts of Pakistan’s northern areas, reportedly the heaviest snowfall in 48 years.

The blessing of increased precipitation turned deadly weeks later, however, when a winter storm caused flash flooding in Pakistan, killing at least 26 people across several cities. In many towns the rain, which totaled up to 40 mm (1.57 inches) in two days, exceeded the average total for the month of February.

Heavy rains caused flash flooding that killed at least seven people and swept away 80 houses in Afghanistan’s western Farah province mid-February. Hundreds of families were displaced.

In North India, groundwater is being depleted 70 percent faster than previous estimates claimed, according to recent research. Groundwater exploitation increases in drought years and is only partially replaced by monsoon rains. Scientists fear that in addition to straining the population’s access to clean water, groundwater exploitation in the Indo-Gangetic basin may trigger earthquakes. India is the largest consumer of groundwater, extracting over a quarter of the world’s total groundwater supply. Over the last 146 years, groundwater supply has been a critically important factor in most regions of India during times of drought.

A deficit of monsoon rains and armyworm infestation slashed India’s corn output and raised prices, prompting speculation that the Indian government will grant duty-free corn imports for the first time since 2016. Ordinarily, imports are subject to a 60 percent tariff.

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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