Africa: Water deficits forecast to diminish

22 July 2019

The 12-month forecast through March 2020 indicates water deficits of varying intensity framing much of the continent from the Horn, along the Red Sea, across the north, through the west, and down the Atlantic Coast to the southern nations.

Deficits will be exceptional in many areas including northern Niger through southern Libya into Egypt; pockets along the Red Sea and along the coast of Somalia near Mogadishu; from Cameroon through westernmost Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); southwestern Angola; southwestern Namibia; and Northern Cape, South Africa.

Relatively normal water conditions are expected across the Sahel. Deficits will be primarily moderate in the corner of West Africa from southern Mauritania through Liberia, and through central southern nations from DRC south.

Extreme surpluses are forecast for a large block of western Tanzania, and moderate to severe surpluses in an eastern pocket reaching inland from Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Surpluses elsewhere include northern Uganda; northern Mozambique; northern and southeastern Madagascar; south of Durban, South Africa; and near Benghazi, Libya.

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

The forecast through September indicates that deficits in Africa will shrink and downgrade overall. Moderate to severe deficits are expected across northern Africa along with some more intense pockets. Conditions of both deficit and surplus are forecast in western Libya as transitions occur. Relatively normal conditions are forecast in the southern Sahara, the Sahel, and into central Africa. Deficits in the Horn will downgrade considerably, becoming mild, though a pocket of intense deficit is forecast in Ethiopia west of Addis Ababa. Other areas with a forecast of extreme to exceptional deficit include coastal Côte d’Ivoire, southeastern Nigeria into Cameroon, and pockets of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.

Exceptional surpluses are forecast in western Tanzania with surpluses of lesser intensity in the central and eastern parts of the nation. Surpluses are also expected in Uganda and western Kenya, along the White Nile in South Sudan, south of Durban and west of Johannesburg (South Africa), and pockets of northern and southeastern Madagascar. Surpluses are also expected in regions of the Zambezi and Ligonha Rivers in northern Mozambique along with conditions of both surplus and deficit as transitions occur.

From October through December, anomalies will shrink and downgrade considerably, leaving nearly normal conditions in much of Africa. Some small pockets of deficit are forecast sprinkled across eastern Libya and southern Egypt into Sudan. Surpluses will shrink and moderate in Tanzania, persist in westernmost Kenya and along the southern White Nile in South Sudan, and increase in Uganda. Exceptional surpluses will persist near Benghazi, Libya, and some pockets in northern Egypt.

During the final quarter – January through March 2020 – deficits will increase slightly across northern and western Africa, and a pocket of exceptional deficit will emerge from southeastern Ethiopia into Somalia. Surpluses will persist in Uganda and increase somewhat in Tanzania.

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

Heavy rainfall in the Nigerian state of Minna caused flash flooding that killed two boys last month and damaged several properties. Nearly two weeks earlier a ten-year-old girl and an adult man were killed in Asaba in a mid-June flash flood. Nigeria’s hydrological agency predicts that 70 local government areas in 30 states will experience severe flooding from June through September.

The federal government of Botswana has increased its livestock drought subsidy from 25 percent to 35 percent as the country struggles with severe drought conditions. The subsidy was also extended to cover dairy cattle, small scale poultry, and pig producers. The country officially declared a drought late late month, citing an assessment that reported lower planted area and crop failure due to heat and erratic rains.

The municipal water system in Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare was pushed to the brink of collapse when two of the four reservoirs serving the region dried up, cutting off tap water to two million residents in the greater Harare area. The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the two remaining larger reservoirs with near-capacity water levels are polluted by upstream dumpage, requiring the city to spend $3 million every month on treatment chemicals. Adding to its water woes, rolling power cuts have hit the entire country due to drought at the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River. Statistics at the end of June indicated that Kariba had only 29 percent “live water,” or water that can be used for hydropower.

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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