Middle East: Water surpluses to persist in Syria, Iraq, & W. Iran

22 April 2019

The forecast for the 12-month period ending December 2019 indicates widespread, intense water deficits on the Arabian Peninsula including exceptional deficits in pockets of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, western Oman, and along parts of the Gulf of Oman.

Intense deficits are also forecast for southern Iraq along with conditions of both deficit and surplus as transitions occur. Primarily moderate to severe deficits are expected Kerman Province, Iran, along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, and in Georgia.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast for northern Syria into Turkey; Iraq along the northern Tigris River and from the Euphrates River well into western Iran; and along Iran’s Caspian Sea coast. These areas of surplus include Aleppo (Syria); Mosul, Kirkuk, and Baghdad (Iraq); and Tehran, Iran.

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

The forecast through June indicates that widespread water surpluses will persist in the region from northern Syria into southern Turkey, from the Euphrates River in Iraq well into western Iran, and in northern Iran along the coast. The extent of exceptional surplus will diminish somewhat, but surpluses ranging from severe to exceptional will remain widespread. Moderate to extreme surpluses will reach further into Fars Province in southwestern Iran. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for Cyprus, northern Israel, West Bank, and Lebanon.

Deficits will downgrade on the Arabian Peninsula during this period but will remain widespread, with severe to extreme anomalies in southern Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates, and some pockets of exceptional anomalies. Central and northern Turkey will transition from surplus to moderate deficit.

From July through September, deficits will cover of the region, intensifying significantly on the Arabian Peninsula and in Iraq west of the Euphrates, where anomalies will be exceptional. While intense surpluses are expected to persist in northern Iraq and into western Iran, much of the prior areas of surplus will begin to transition with both deficits and surpluses expected in northern Syria, southern Turkey, Iran’s Caspian Sea coast, and the bulk of western Iran. Intense deficits will emerge in the Levant; other areas of intense deficit include northern Kerman Province, Iran, and Turkey’s central-north province of Erzincan.

In the final quarter – October through December – deficits will downgrade significantly in Turkey and the Levant; widespread deficits ranging from severe to exceptional are forecast for the Arabian Peninsula, western and southern Iraq, and Iran’s eastern two-thirds; and surpluses will persist, but downgrade, from northern Iraq through western Iran.

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

Weeks of rain that began in mid-March caused major flooding in 25 Iranian provinces, killing at least 76 people and causing more than $2.2 billion in damages. Hundreds of bridges were destroyed and 14,000 km (8,699 miles) of roads were damaged. Flooding cut power to 2,352 villages and water supplies to 3,778 villages. Local communities are reportedly leading relief efforts, with private donations serving aid camps. International aid is contributing, though aid workers say that U.S. sanctions are hindering relief efforts.

Flooding described as unprecedented extended into Iraq and Syria. The torrential rain has reportedly replenished Iraqi reservoirs with enough water to supply the country for the next two summers. Concern over the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest dam, under the burden of increased water, was rebutted by the dam’s chief engineer.

In northern Syria, floods destroyed refugee camps housing 40,000 people. The recent flood displacement comes months after 32,000 people were displaced in wintry conditions by heavy flooding.

The region’s torrential rains rose Israel’s Sea of Galilee by 12 inches, partially recovering it from seven years of drought conditions that forced the country to expand drinking water sources and depressed the lake’s fishing activities.

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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