Africa: Pockets of intense water deficits will persist in Namibia

30 May 2019

The 12-month forecast through January 2020 indicates deficits of varying intensity throughout much of Africa, including many vast blocks of exceptional deficit. Severe to exceptional water deficits are expected across northern Africa, in the Horn, and in central and southern nations from Cameroon through South Africa.

Exceptional deficits will be particularly widespread in Egypt and northern Sudan, northern Niger, southern Somalia, Angola, Namibia, 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, and moderate to extreme surpluses in an eastern pocket radiating from Dar es Salaam. Surpluses are also forecast for pockets of northern Mozambique and northern Madagascar; south of Durban, South Africa; near Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya; and along the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and southwestern Nigeria.

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

The forecast through July 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 but will intensify across northern Africa. In the north, intense deficits are expected across the breadth of the Sahara including widespread exceptional deficits in Egypt and across its borders into northern Sudan and southeastern Libya. Generally mild deficits are expected in the Sahel. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast along the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and southwestern Nigeria.

In the Horn, deficits will moderate in Somalia but severe to extreme deficits are forecast for the Ethiopian Highlands and western Kenya. Moderate to severe deficits are forecast for much of the southern half of the continent with extreme to exceptional deficits in pockets of Namibia and southern Angola. Surpluses are expected in Tanzania, northern Mozambique and a pocket of northern Madagascar, and south of Durban, South Africa. Surpluses will be exceptional in western Tanzania. Conditions at the mouth of the Congo River as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean in westernmost Democratic Republic of the Congo will transition from intense deficit to intense surplus.

From August through October, intense deficits are forecast across northern Africa, though exceptional deficits in Egypt will downgrade slightly, becoming severe to extreme. Mild to moderate deficits are forecast for the Sahel and central African nations, while deficits in southern Somalia intensify, becoming exceptional. Moderate surpluses will persist along the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, and conditions of both surplus and deficit are forecast for Tanzania as transitions occur. Deficits will become exceptional in Angola’s southern half. Exceptional deficits will persist in pockets of Namibia; emerge in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and in Northern Cape, South Africa; and increase along Madagascar’s western coast.

During the final quarter – November 2019 through January 2020 – deficits will moderate across northern Africa though exceptional deficits are forecast in the west and the western Sahel. Pockets of intense deficit are expected in the Horn, moderate to severe deficits in central African nations, and mild deficits in the south with some moderate surpluses surrounding Lesotho.

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

Devastating floods following days of heavy rain killed around 70 people and displaced 1,000 in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces last month.

Cyclone Kenneth ravaged Mozambique late last month as the second cyclone in six weeks to hit the country, killing at least five people. The cyclone hit while the country was still recovering from Cyclone Idai in March, which killed over 1,000 people in southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. The United Nations said that more than 1.8 million people still need aid for recovery from Cyclone Idai in central Mozambique, and Cyclone Kenneth was estimated to affect an additional 168,000.

At the close of the country’s wet season, with little rain to show for it, Namibia declared a state of emergency due to drought. The government confirmed that it will subsidize farmers who reduce their herds, to encourage mitigating water demand. Deteriorating grazing conditions over the last six months have caused the deaths of nearly 64,000 animals. A recent Congo fever outbreak in the country, the first in northern Namibia, is speculated to be due to unusual animal distributions resulting from the current drought, causing ticks in the northeastern and north central regions to be vectors of the virus. Water restrictions will be implemented in the capital city of Windhoek beginning July 1, triggered by a municipal declaration of a “severe water scarcity.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization warned that 2.2 million people, nearly 18 percent of Somalia’s population, could face severe hunger between July and September due to the country’s current drought, the worst it has experienced in years.

Long-term effects of a three-year drought in South Africa are blamed for what is expected to be the country’s lowest wine grape harvest since 2005.

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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