Water deficit is high and precipitation varies spatio-temporally in arid areas. This study was conducted to analyse the spatio-temporal variability of precipitation and drought intensity in an arid catchment in South Africa. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used to estimate the spatio-temporal precipitation where nine meteorological stations were used as input to the model. The model was calibrated and validated by regionalization with a physical similarity approach. SWAT only predicts precipitation at sub-basin level. Hence, the mean precipitation was further interpolated by using the inverse distance weighted method (IDW). The Mann–Kendall trend test shows that there was no trend in annual precipitation whereas in the monthly precipitation there was a 0.01 mm decrease. Daily precipitation varied from 0.1 to 4 mm whereas in a monthly basis, it varied from 6 mm (September) to 43.4 mm (February). The annual precipitation varied from 169 mm (1983) to 415 mm (2003) with a long-term mean of 280.8 mm. Precipitation is also highly variable in space throughout the catchment. Generally, annual precipitation decreased from north to south; however, during the winter season, the reverse was true due to the influence of rain-bearing condition from the south- western direction. Based on the aridity index (AI), the catchment is categorized as arid. The SPI shows that the 1983 drought was the worst whereas the 2003 and 2004 years were relatively wet. The results from this study provide baseline information for further research in climate change adaptation and environmental monitoring programs in the region.
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