Middle East: Intense water deficits to emerge in Saudi Arabia

20 September 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The forecast for the 12-month period ending May 2020 indicates widespread water deficits of varying intensity covering much of the Arabian Peninsula including exceptional anomalies in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, southwestern Yemen, northwestern Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea, and southern Jordan.

Deficits are also forecast for central Iran, along Iran’s Persian Gulf coast, and Georgia. Conditions of both deficit and surplus are expected in Syria and western Iraq. Some primarily moderate deficits are expected in pockets of Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, and the West Bank.

Surpluses are forecast from northern Iraq into western Iran, and in northern Iran along the southeastern Caspian Sea coast and the border with Turkmenistan. Surpluses are also forecast in southeastern Iran in the northern half of Sistan and Baluchestan Province. Areas of surplus include Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq, and Tehran Iran. Surpluses will be extreme to exceptional along the Iran-Turkmen border; from Mosul to Kirkuk; and from Lake Urmia in northwestern Iran through the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan and into southern Armenia.

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

The forecast through November indicates that widespread surpluses will persist in the region from southeastern Turkey and northern Syria through northern Iraq into northwestern Iran, and along the southeastern shore of the Caspian Sea and the Iran-Turkmen border. Surpluses will remain intense, with exceptional anomalies persisting along the Iran-Turkmen border and around Mosul in Iraq, and re-emerging in northern Syria.

Exceptional deficits are forecast to emerge in a vast block of central Saudi Arabia including Riyadh, with deficits of lesser intensity covering much of the remainder of the Arabian Peninsula. Moderate deficits are forecast for Iraq west of the Euphrates River with some exceptional pockets in the south. Some pockets of exceptional deficit are also forecast for western Kerman Province in Iran. Moderate to severe deficits are expected in Georgia, with exceptional near Batumi on the Black Sea.

From December 2019 through February 2020, many parts of the region will return to normal water conditions as deficits shrink and downgrade considerably. Moderate to severe deficits will persist in western Georgia and some moderate pockets in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula. Areas of surplus will shrink as well but surpluses are forecast for central Syria, northern Iraq, western Iran, and the Iran-Turkmen border. Anomalies will be exceptional in the Iran-Turkmen border region, northern Iraq surrounding Mosul, and central Syria. Surpluses will re-emerge in Iran north of the Persian Gulf from western Isfahan Province into central Khuzestan Province.

In the final quarter – March through May 2020 – surpluses will shrink considerably leaving some intense patches in central Syria, around Mosul, and in Iran near the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea. Moderate to severe deficits will emerge in the Levant and increase in Saudi Arabia.

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

IMPACTS
Downpours of up to 110 mm (4.3 inches) of rain flooded northwestern Turkey, killing at least one person last month. The norm for total rainfall in the month of August is 23.6 millimeters (0.9 inches).

Prolonged drought has affected 85 percent of Iran’s population in the last decade, according to the director of the country’s national center for drought and crisis management.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
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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