Middle East: Water surpluses will persist in northern Iraq & Iran

16 August 2019

The forecast for the 12-month period ending April 2020 indicates widespread water deficits of varying intensity covering nearly all of the Arabian Peninsula, including exceptional anomalies in southwestern Yemen, western Oman into southeastern Saudi Arabia, northwestern Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.

Intense deficits are also forecast for southern Iraq, Jordan, and southern Israel.

Surpluses are forecast for a vast stretch from northern Syria through northern Iraq and well into western Iran, trailing south to Fars Province. Surpluses are also forecast in northern Iran along the Caspian Sea coast, the border with Turkmenistan, and from eastern Kerman Province through northern Sistan and Baluchistan in the southeast. Surpluses will be exceptional in Syria, pockets of Iraq, and along Iran’s border with Turkmenistan. Areas of surplus include Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq, and Tehran, Iran.

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

The forecast through October indicates that widespread surpluses will persist in the region from southeastern Turkey through northern Iraq into northwestern Iran and along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Surpluses will remain intense, ranging from severe to exceptional, but many areas of previous surplus will begin to transition, indicated by purple and pink regions in Syria, western Iraq, along the Persian Gulf in Iran, and near the Iran-Turkmenistan border. Surpluses will shrink in Iran’s southeastern provinces of Kerman and Sistan and Baluchistan and a transition is indicated as moderate deficits emerge there and in central Iran.

Intense deficits are forecast for central Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, moderate to severe deficits in Georgia, and primarily moderate deficits in pockets of western Turkey including Ankara.

From November 2019 through January 2020, many parts of the region will return to normal water conditions as deficits nearly disappear, persisting mainly in Georgia, southern Riyadh Province in Saudi Arabia, and southwestern Yemen. And as deficits disappear, areas formerly in transition will experience a re-emergence of surplus, from Syria through northeastern Iraq into western Iran and along Iran’s Caspian coast and border with Turkmenistan. Surpluses will be exceptional in Syria; between Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq; and along the Iran-Turkmen border.

In the final quarter – February through April 2020 – surpluses will shrink considerably though intense anomalies are expected in Syria, a pocket of northeastern Iraq surrounding Mosul, northwestern Iran, and northeastern Iran along the Caspian Sea and the border with Turkmenistan. Deficits will increase on the Arabian Peninsula.

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

[updated 26 Aug 2019]
Heavy rainfall flooded western Yemen killing ten people and displacing hundreds of families in the al-Mahwit Province a week after flash floods and landslides displaced 127 families in the Ibb province. Amid a civil war that damaged infrastructure and many health facilities in Yemen, the flooding raised concerns over the spread of cholera, with which one million people have been infected in Yemen since 2017.

Turkey began filling the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River, potentially threatening further water insecurity in downstream Iraq which gets 70 percent of its water from rivers that it shares with Turkey. Approved by the Turkish government in 1997 as part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, the Ilisu Dam is a key component of the Project, aimed at improving the country’s poorest region.

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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