South Asia: Widespread water deficits forecast to persist in central & southern India

29 May 2019

The 12-month forecast through January 2020 indicates intense water surpluses in Jammu and Kashmir, India, moderate deficits in large pockets elsewhere across the north, and more intense deficits in central and southern India.

Exceptional deficits are forecast for the Indravati River watershed in southern Chhattisgarh with severe to extreme deficits in surrounding regions. Intense deficits are also expected in Tamil Nadu and Kerala in southern India.

Surpluses are forecast in northern Pakistan and along the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab Rivers, and will be exceptional along the northern Indus. Severe deficits are forecast in the southeast from Karachi past Hyderabad, and some moderate deficits in the southwest.

In Afghanistan, surpluses are also forecast across the center of the country and will be exceptional surrounding Herat and the Harirud River in the west extending north to Mazar-e Sharif, and in the east from Kandahar to Kabul.

Surpluses are forecast along the Gandaki River in central Nepal leading into India.

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

The forecast through July indicates that exceptional deficits in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India will downgrade somewhat. Exceptional deficits at the intersection of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka will shrink and downgrade but will be extreme, and deficits will intensify in regions just north, becoming severe in a vast stretch of central India including much of Madya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and southern Odisha. Deficits will be exceptional in coastal Maharashtra. Surpluses will shrink in the Far North and will disappear in the Gangetic Plain as moderate deficits emerge. Severe deficits will emerge on the Yamuna River in the north and in India’s Far Northeast.

Surpluses will shrink considerably in Nepal and Bhutan, and Bangladesh will transition from surplus to moderate deficit. Surpluses will remain intense in northern Pakistan, especially along the northern Indus River, but exceptional deficits will emerge in southern Pakistan. Surpluses will also remain intense and widespread across central Afghanistan.

From August through October, deficits in India will downgrade considerably, leaving mild to moderate anomalies overall with some moderate to severe deficits persisting in the Far Northeast, intense surpluses persisting in Jammu and Kashmir, and moderate surpluses emerging on Gujarat’s southern coast. Surpluses are forecast on the Gandaki River in central Nepal; severe deficits will emerge in Bhutan. Intense deficits will increase in southwestern Pakistan, and intense surpluses will persist in the north and along the northern Indus River. Surpluses in Afghanistan will shrink, and transitions will occur as deficits emerge.

The forecast for the final months – November 2019 through January 2020 – indicates the emergence of intense deficits spanning the India-Pakistan border well into both nations. Moderate deficits are forecast for much of the remainder of India and moderate to severe deficits in Pakistan. Areas of surplus include central Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and northern India.

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

Cyclone Fani, a rare summer cyclone, killed dozens of people and destroyed hundreds of homes as it swept across India and Bangladesh early this month. Over one million people evacuated around 15,000 villages and 46 towns in India’s Odisha state, as did over 1.6 million people in Bangladesh, in preparation for the storm.

A shortage of Indian cotton due to drought-hampered production is prompting projections that India will increase cotton imports this year by 80 percent.

A drought advisory was issued to six western and southern Indian states this month, signaling that reservoir levels are 20 percent less than their long-term average water storage. Over two dozen dams in Maharashtra reached “zero storage” as of mid-May. The state’s government established a fodder camp for cattle, where roughly 1,200 farmers can bring their livestock for food, water, and medical care. Critics of the fodder camps accuse government of distributing drought relief unequally, preferentially placing fodder camps in the districts that are home to the relatively wealthy and powerful.

Residents in some areas of Maharashtra are receiving water deliveries only once a month, leading residents to steal water from each others’ storage tanks.

Tech giant Google, who reports that 20 percent of global flood-related deaths occur in India, promises to make available an artificial intelligence technology to predict floods in India ahead of the monsoon season this year. The technology uses machine learning to predict where floods may occur and alert users in those areas.

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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