South Asia: Widespread, intense water deficits forecast for India

24 April 2019

The 12-month forecast through December 2019 indicates intense water deficits in southern India, in the middle Godavari River Basin and the Indravati watershed, and a pocket in central Madhya Pradesh.

Moderate deficits are expected in the center of the country, Gujarat, the northern Gangetic Plain, and the Far Northeast. Exceptional surpluses are forecast for 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, and will be exceptional along the northern Indus. Deficits are expected in southern Pakistan and will be extreme in the southeast from Karachi past Hyderabad. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast in the southwest.

In Afghanistan, intense surpluses are forecast east of the Helmand River from Kandahar to Kabul, and in the west from Herat to Mazar-e Sharif.

In central Nepal, surpluses are forecast along the Gandaki River leading into India, and some moderate surpluses are expected in eastern Bangladesh and north into India. Some pockets of moderate to severe deficit are forecast for Bhutan, and moderate deficits in Sri Lanka.

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

The forecast through June indicates that severe to exceptional deficits will emerge throughout much of India south and west of the Gangetic Plain. Exceptional deficits will be especially widespread in eastern Tamil Nadu and Telangana. Exceptional surpluses are forecast in the northern states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

In Pakistan, exceptional surpluses are forecast in the far north and along the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, and Sutlej Rivers, and extreme to exceptional surpluses along the northern Indus. Severe to extreme surpluses are expected in the northwest from Quetta to Peshawar. Deficits will emerge in the south and are expected to be severe in the southeast.

Surpluses will continue to emerge in much of Afghanistan but particularly from Kandahar to Kabul in the east and from Herat to Mazar-e-Sharif in the west where anomalies are expected to reach exceptional intensity. Intense deficits are forecast in southwestern Afghanistan. In Nepal, intense surpluses are forecast in the west and moderate surpluses in the east. Moderate surpluses are also forecast in Bangladesh along the Padma River, in northeastern Bangladesh, and east into Meghalaya and Manipur, India.

From July through September, deficits in India will downgrade considerably, leaving mild to moderate anomalies overall, but extreme deficits will emerge in Odisha. Primarily moderate deficits will emerge in the Gangetic Plain, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Nepal, and deficits of greater intensity are expected in India’s Far Northeast. Surpluses in Pakistan and Afghanistan will shrink somewhat but intense anomalies are forecast along the northern portion of the Indus River in Pakistan and in Afghanistan from east of Kandahar to Kabul. Deficits will downgrade in southeastern Pakistan and intensify in southwestern Pakistan. Exceptional deficits will persist in southwestern Afghanistan but conditions of both deficit and surplus are also forecast as transitions occur.

The forecast for the final months – October through December – indicates mild deficits in much of India with more intense deficits near the Pakistan border. Deficits are forecast across much of Pakistan’s southern two-thirds with some pockets of exceptional deficit in the east and southeast; surpluses are forecast in the far north. Conditions of both deficit and surplus are expected in Afghanistan.

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

Flash floods killed at least 77 people and destroyed thousands of homes in Afghanistan in recent weeks. The major flooding ravaged crops after the country’s worst drought in decades last year displaced hundreds of thousands of people and precluded crop planting. This year’s wheat crop followed a relatively wet winter, and so what remains after the devastating floods carries critical weight for the food supplies of rural Afghans. 

At least eight people were killed in a flash flood triggered by heavy rain in northwest Pakistan this month. Disease and hunger due to drought ravaged the country prior to the flooding.

As many as one billion people in India live in areas of water scarcity. Drought in India’s southwestern state of Maharashtra spiked prices of vegetables like coriander and spinach by as much as 20 percent. The state’s drought also contributed to a speculated 1.7-million-ton drop in fruit production this year. In nearby Karnataka, a dispute last month among neighbors over water shortages led to a reported knife slashing. About 42 percent of India’s land area is facing drought as of late March, largely due to a shortfall in monsoon rains in 2018.

Severe dry weather in Sri Lanka is affecting half a million people as of mid-April. The federal Disaster Management Center has dispatched water bowsers (mobile water tanks) to affected areas, and a severe heat advisory is in effect for eight districts.

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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