Africa: Water deficits to downgrade in the south, intensify in the north

22 April 2019

The 12-month forecast through December 2019 indicates severe to extreme water deficits in the north with exceptional deficits in northern Niger, southern Libya, Egypt, and northern Sudan.

Exceptional deficits elsewhere include Somalia, Gabon, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Northern Cape, South Africa. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for much of the remainder of the continent.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast for a large block of western Tanzania. Surpluses are also forecast for relatively small pockets in western and southeastern Mozambique, northern Madagascar, Algeria’s northeastern coast into Tunisia, and near Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya.

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

The forecast through June indicates that deficits will downgrade in the southern half of the continent and across its midsection from the Gulf of Guinea to the Horn of Africa. However, deficits will become more intense across northern Africa. In the north, deficits of varying intensity are forecast across the southern Sahara and the Sahel with exceptional deficits in northern Niger, southeastern Libya, southern Egypt, and northern Sudan. Surpluses are forecast for eastern Nigeria into northern Cameroon, south-central Chad, southeastern Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and around Lake Volta in Ghana. In the Horn deficits will downgrade, but exceptional deficits are forecast for Somalia from the Jubba River past the Shabelle River including Mogadishu.

Intense deficits are expected in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and exceptional deficits northwest of Nairobi, Kenya. Exceptional surpluses will persist in western Tanzania and pockets of western and northern Mozambique. Surpluses in northern Madagascar will moderate. Intense deficits are expected in Zambia, Zimbabwe, southwestern Angola, and the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.

From July through September deficits across northern Africa will intensify significantly with extreme to exceptional deficits across the Sahara. Primarily mild deficits are forecast across the Sahel. Exceptional deficits in southern Somalia will increase and deficits of equal intensity will emerge in southeastern Ethiopia and southeastern Kenya. Farther south, deficits will intensify in Angola, Namibia, Zambia, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo and central Botswana, becoming exceptional in many areas. Exceptional deficits are expected to emerge in western Madagascar. Both deficits and surpluses (purple) are forecast in western Tanzania and northern Mozambique as transitions occur.

During the final quarter – October through December – intense deficits will continue across much of northern Africa in the Sahara and the Sahel, though the extent of exceptional deficits will diminish. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast in the remainder of the continent and some moderate surpluses in central Tanzania.

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

Cyclone Idai, which struck southeastern Africa in mid-March, was described by the United Nations as one of the deadliest storms on record in the southern hemisphere. Recent death tolls report over 1,000 people killed in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi. A cholera outbreak followed in Mozambique, killing at least one person. Over 500 cholera cases were reported as of April 1, resulting from human waste in flooded drinking water supplies. Nearly 90,000 Mozambicans are estimated to be displaced to temporary shelters.

Both drought and Cyclone Idai have ravaged croplands in Zimbabwe, forcing the country to import grain to avert shortages.

Drought is plaguing the Horn of Africa and is expected to worsen in the coming months, affecting millions of people. Thousands of people in northern Kenya are currently facing starvation due to drought, and nine people have died as of mid-March. For nearly a year, northern Kenya has received almost no rainfall.

A Brussels-based research group is warning of “dire humanitarian consequences” if tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile escalate to conflict between Ethiopia and it’s downstream neighbors Egypt and Sudan. Both Egypt and Sudan worry that the dam will reduce their water supplies, and are looking into desalination, wastewater treatment, and salt water farming to reduce the impact. The dam is set to be completed in 2022.

The Zambezi River Authority, which manages the Kariba Dam on behalf of Zimbabwe and Zambia, has warned of an electricity crisis resulting from water levels on Lake Kariba plummeting to 39 percent capacity due to drought.

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.

Subscribe to our monthly Water Watch List

Search blog categories

Search blog tags


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.

For more information contact

Copyright 2019 ISCIENCES, L.L.C. Global Water Monitor & Forecast Watch List is the property of ISCIENCES, L.L.C. It is protected by U.S. copyright laws and may not be reproduced in any way without the written permission of ISCIENCES, L.L.C. The user assumes the entire risk related to its use of information on ISCIENCES, L.L.C. Web pages, including information derived from Water Security Indicators Model (WSIM). This information may include forecasts, projections and other predictive statements that represent ISCIENCES, L.L.C.’s assumptions and expectations in light of currently available information and using the highest professional standards. Actual results may differ from those projected. Consequently, no guarantee is presented or implied as to the accuracy of specific forecasts, projections or predictive statements contained herein. ISCIENCES, L.L.C. provides such information "as is," and disclaims any and all warranties, whether express or implied, including (without limitation) any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will ISCIENCES, L.L.C. be liable to you or to any third party for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, special or exemplary damages or lost profit resulting from any use or misuse of this data.