Sunday, February 2, 2020

WATER WARS, Ch. 3, Water Conflicts

Water Wars: Sharing the Colorado River

A good summary and starting point for the topic “water conflict” is available at Wikipedia. [].
The right to ownership or access to water resources has been a contributing factor to numerous wars, though rarely the predominant factor. The Pacific Institute, established in 1987, has a detailed chronology of wars involving water access as a trigger, a weapon, or a casualty of the conflict; [] the Institute specializes in water resource issues. Its web site is Its President Emeritus Peter Gleick spoke at the American Geophysical Union’s Centennial Meeting on December 11, 2018, his talk centering on the issue of freshwater sustainability.
Peter Gleick and colleague Charles Iceland in August of 2018 published an issue brief, “Water, Security, and Conflict,” through the World Resources Forum []. “This paper summarizes our current understanding of water and security threats and their links to conflict, migration, and food insecurity,” they write.


Gleick and Iceland (2018) noted that increasing populations and industrialization along with predicted climate changes threaten freshwater supplies. Water insecurity is “much more likely if governance is weak, infrastructure is inadequate, and institutions are fragile.” Gleick and Iceland list some risk-reducing options:
        putting caps on water usage;
        improving irrigation practices and technology (irrigation being
70% of water withdrawals worldwide);
        planting water-conserving crops;
        “introducing social safety net programs;”
        reducing food loss and waste;
        slowing population growth;
        establishing urban water conservation programs;
        improving water treatment and conservation;
        negotiating watershed agreements;
        updating water information systems;
        investing in water reuse and in water capture by dams, dikes, and levees;
        protecting the forests and wetlands; and
•    strengthening the relevant governance bodies.
They classify the threats as
        diminished water supply or quality
•    increased water demand
        extreme flood events.
They write that analysts are emphasizing now that conflicts arise not only due to political differences, but also to economic, demographic, and social factors somewhat affected by resource constraints.
They cite work by the U.S. Director of the Office of National Intelligence (DNI) to the effect that water issues are not likely to cause war in the next decade but can contribute to tensions that lead to war. “In 2017, the global forcibly displaced populations grew to 68.5 million individuals.” Some of these were displaced by economic conditions that grew out of water resource issues. Population growth is marked in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. “More than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas,” putting pressure on the supply of clean water. Predicted and observed environmental change is making water less available.
Water problems can lead to trans-national communication and sometimes conflict.
Droughts hit Somalia, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, and China in the recent past. Other losses have come from contamination and salt water intrusion.
Construction of a major dam by Ethiopia has strained the relationship it has with Egypt. Over-use of certain areas for agriculture can lead to water shortages. A drought in Syria from 2006 to 2011 led to mass migration to the cities, straining the infrastructure and contributing to the outbreak of civil war. Floods in southern Asia in 2017 affected more than 40 million people there.
Governance is strained by water supply emergencies. The same fiveyear drought that precipitated the Syrian civil war was successfully weathered by Jordan and Lebanon.
Water can be a weapon or a casualty in war. ISIS employed the manipulation of the water supplies of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in support of its goals. The Syrian government curtailed water supplies to its enemies. Yemen was hit with destruction of water supply modalities.
The UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses established standards and best practices. Earlier, a 1977 Geneva Convention set rules and standards for the protection of civilians during military conflict. Agreements have been reached for many multi-nationally shared watersheds, with the significant exception of the Tigris-Euphrates region.
A set of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has developed a Water, Peace and Security project to advance these causes. Understand, Mobilize, Support, and Dialogue are their four-pronged activities,
The Brief ends with Definitions, Endnotes, Bibliography, and information about the authors and the sponsoring institutions, the World Resource Institute and the Pacific Institute.
A sidebar offers “The Water Conflict Chronology” at the site www. There is presented an extensive tabulation of 551 conflicts [] in which water played an important role. Accompanying this is a map.


Here we list the water conflicts of 2017 (the most recent complete year at our time of writing this) presented in “The Water Conflict Chronology” at the site There is presented an extensive tabulation of 551 conflicts [http://www.] in which water played an important role. Accompanying this is a map. Here is a summary of just the 2017 conflicts. The chronology’s Headlines are quoted or paraphrased here from the list. We have added the numbers on the left-hand side:
1.      Attack on a local dam in India. Militia fires blanks at crowd.
2.      Water pipeline is damaged in Pakistan. Mistaken for gas pipeline.
3.      Islamic State militants raid Great Manmade River Project pumping station in N. Africa. Provides water to Libyan cities.
4.      Water supply in Damascus, Syria, periodically cut off. These springs supply water to 4 million people.
5.      Groups clash over water shortages in Sehore district, India.
6.      US Coalition vs. ISIS destroys main pipeline to Raqqa, Syria. Damaged by airstrike.
7.      Military action destroys water facilities in Al Mokha, Yemen. Scores of people killed as well.
8.      Groups clash over ecological impact of proposed coal plant. Protestors in and near Dhaka battle about ecosystems and fisheries.
9.      Deadly clashes in Darfur (N. Africa) between farmers and herders over water access. More than 70 killed.
10.   ISIS floods villages east of Aleppo. Water pumped from lake as part of civil war.
11.   Nearly 3 million people left without reliable access to water in the Ukraine. War damage to infrastructure.
12.   Battle in vicinity of Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River. Dam may have been target of the attack.
13.   11 injured in clashes between farmers and herdsmen over water in the Sudan.
14.   ISIS militants burn water purification plant in Iraq near Mosul.
15.   Two militias fight over underground water storage tank, subSaharan Africa.
16.   Demonstration over clean water turns violent and one protestor is killed, sub-Saharan Africa.
17.   Water well is poisoned in Somalia, killing more than 30 people.
Soldiers were the targets.
18.   Airstrikes in Yemen destroy water and electrical systems.
19.   Farmers and herdsmen fight over water, sub-Saharan Africa.
20.   Water for Bari community in Somalia cut off as part of war.
21.   Protests over water shortages turn violent and damage water storage tanks.
22.   Police and protestors fight during a march against cut-offs of water and electricity, sub-Saharan Africa.
23.   One killed during fighting over access to water by herdsmen and farmers, sub-Saharan Africa.
24.   Airstrikes in Yemen destroy water and electrical facilities in Sanaa and Taizz.
25.   Syrian forces capture Euphrates River water treatment and pumping plants from ISIS.
26.   Demonstration over access to clean water turns violent in Ghana.
27.   Bomb planted at water, oil, and gas pipelines explodes in Iraq.
28.   Water and electrical systems are attacked by coalition forces in Yemen.
29.   Citizens protesting lack of access to water are allegedly beaten and tortured by military in sub-Sahara.
30.   Demonstrations over access to water and over salary disputes turn violent in Yemen.
31.   Fighting in the Sudan between two clans over water ownership leaves six dead.
32.   Airstrikes in Yemen hit water supply systems.
33.   Four killed in class over water access in Darfur, Sudan.
34.   ISIS bomb damages water truck and a tank in Egypt.
35.   Kenyans destroy water pipe going through their community, protesting lack of benefits to them.
36.   Ethiopian troops charged with attacking Somalian water source.
37.   Three Jordanian officials are shot at when trying to prevent the drilling of a water well.
38.   South Africans riot over water shortages.
39.   Coalition forces bomb water and electrical facilities in Yemen.
40.   38 killed, 30 injured in clan vs. clan battle over water and land in South Sudan.
41.   Two killed in battle over water point in Somalia.
42.   Road blocked in Algeria by protestors complaining they receive water only once every 15 days.
43.   Residents fight police in protest in South Africa over access to water.
44.   Persistent attacks on water facility in Eastern Ukraine leave residents without reliable and safe water.
45.   Algerians protest lack of clean water and adequate sanitation.
46.   One million in Yemen affected by cutting of power lines to water supplies.
47.   Two citizen groups in South Africa fight over electrical and water connections alleged to be illegal.
48.   Yemini government forces kill 12 Houthi in battles at two water wells.
49.   Multiple airstrikes hit water facilities in Yemen.
50.   Violent protests occur in Tunisia over water allocations.
51.   Protests over water outages in Sudan turn violent.
52.   Suspected Taliban militants blow up Afghan dam.
53.   Local Algerian government shut down by protests over water cuts.
54.   Al Qaeda militants destroy water tankers.
55.   Violent protests erupt in South Africa over lack of clean water.
56.   Two killed in conflict over water supplies by two Iraqi clans.
57.   Three killed, more injured in protests in Guinea over lack of electricity and clean water.
58.   In Mali, water pumps destroyed in conflict over clean water.
59.   In Yemen, 5 killed, 11 injured in airstrikes on water facilities.
60.   Arrest 10 in Nigeria over protests about inadequate food, water, healthcare.
61.   Kill 10, wound 16 in battle at watering point in South Sudan.
62.   Israeli forces destroy water pipes in Palestine.
63.   South African student protest against water and power outages and fees becomes violent.
64.   Lack of water triggers violent protest in Guinea.
65.   Protest over lack of drinking water turns violent in Morocco.
66.   Protests turn violent over lack of water and power services in Guinea.
67.   Protests about lack of drinking water become violent in Morocco.
68.   Cuts in water and power lead to violence in Guinea.
69.   Algerians block roads protesting lack of drinking water.
70.   Two wounded in Somalian water dispute.
71.   Airstrike hits water and electrical equipment in Yemen.
72.   Students battle police over water and electricity cuts in Guinea.
73.   ISIS diverts water from village in Iraq.
74.   One killed in dispute over well in Somalia.
75.   Militants destroy water well in Kenya.
76.   Airstrike hits water and electricity facilities in Yemen.
77.   Multiple airstrikes hit water and electricity facilities in Yemen.
78.   Somali conflict over water and land kills at least 14.
79.   Violence erupts in queue at water supply station in South Africa.
This serves as a snapshot of conflicts involving water in 2017. Those living in the U.S. have been spared such conflicts recently, partly due to the detailed legal structures available for adjudicating water rights issues. This is particularly true in the Colorado River Basin, where the Law of the River has evolved and will be instrumental in resolving conflicts over water allocation there as demand increases and supply becomes less reliable.
We next examine problems and possible solutions in the U.S. Colorado River Basin.


I will be serializing here weekly the Microsoft Word transcription of the final galley proof .pdf copy ot WATER WARS, and the book itself  is most conveniently found at

or at DWC's author's book title list

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