Southeast Asia & the Pacific: Widespread, severe water deficits forecast for Thailand & Cambodia

24 April 2019

The 12-month forecast through December 2019 indicates deficits throughout Thailand and most of Cambodia, which are expected to be extreme from eastern Thailand into Cambodia. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Laos, pockets of central and southern Vietnam, and Myanmar’s narrow, southern Tanintharyi Region. Intense deficits are expected in peninsular Malaysia. Pockets of surplus are forecast for western Myanmar.

Deficits of varying intensity are expected in Borneo, eastern and southern Sumatra, the Philippines, Sulawesi, and most of New Guinea. Anomalies will be intense in southern Luzon, Philippines; pockets of Sulawesi; and Papua New Guinea, particularly around the western shore of the Gulf of Papua.

Surpluses are forecast for pockets of western Sumatra and the eastern region of Bird’s Head Peninsula on New Guinea.

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

The forecast through June indicates that deficits in Thailand and Cambodia will downgrade but will be widespread and severe. Laos and Vietnam will transition from surplus to deficit with both conditions forecast for central Vietnam. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for southernmost Myanmar, and the Malay Peninsula. Elsewhere in Myanmar surpluses will shrink, persisting primarily in pockets of the southwest. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in much of the Philippines, Brunei, and northeastern Malaysian Borneo. In Indonesia, conditions are expected to be normal in many regions but scattered pockets of deficit and of surplus are also forecast. Though deficits will downgrade in central Papua New Guinea, exceptional deficits will persist around the Gulf of Papua. Surpluses in north-central New Guinea around Jayapura, Indonesia, will downgrade slightly from exceptional to extreme.

From July through September, deficits will shrink and downgrade in Thailand and Cambodia leaving nearly normal conditions in western Thailand and central Cambodia, and moderate deficits pocked with deficits of greater intensity elsewhere in those two nations. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for central and parts of southern Vietnam and for southern Laos, but deficits in the Malay Peninsula could reach greater intensity. The extent of deficits will diminish somewhat in the Philippines but moderate to severe deficits are expected in many regions and will be particularly intense in southern Luzon. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for eastern Sumatra and many of the remaining regions of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, though deficits will downgrade around the Gulf of Papua. Some exceptional deficits are expected in the Lesser Sunda Islands. Moderate surpluses are forecast for north-central Vietnam and northern Sumatra.

The forecast for the final months – October through December – indicates moderate deficits in eastern Thailand, parts of Cambodia, and northern Laos. Primarily moderate deficits are also forecast for much of the remainder of the region, but deficits may be severe in Papua New Guinea and southeastern Borneo, and extreme in western peninsular Malaysia, pockets of Sulawesi, and southern Luzon, Philippines.

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

The death toll from devastating floods that ravaged Indonesia’s Papua province last month rose to 113, with 100 still missing at the end of March. Over 11,500 people were displaced, and rainy conditions have slowed search operations for the missing. The downpour dropped as much as 18 inches (450 millimeters) of rain over three days in some areas.

Even accounting for a slowdown in demand, traders remain concerned that supplies of rice from Thailand, the world’s second-largest rice exporter, could be hampered by drought this year.

Water shortages in the Philippine capital of Manila and nearby Rizal province have affected 6 million people. Water-dependent business have closed temporarily and water supply to residences has been cut for up to six hours per day. Shortages are expected to last until May or June when the country’s rainy season ramps up.

Unusually high temperatures and drought have created power shortages in Cambodia recently. With hydro-electric production diminished, the country’s power utility has cut daytime power in order to meet nighttime demand and is encouraging users to reduce energy consumption until the rainy season.

Drought this year has affected 300 hectares (741 acres) of coffee fields and other crops in Dak Lak province of the Central Highlands, Vietnam’s largest coffee-growing area.

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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