Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Sunday, February 2, 2020
WATER WARS, Ch. 3, Water Conflicts
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;
[https://www.worldwater.org/water-conflict/] the Institute specializes in water
resource issues. Its web site is pacinst.org. 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.
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
•putting caps on water usage;
•improving irrigation practices and technology
70% of water withdrawals
•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
They classify the
•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
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.
strained by water supply emergencies. The same fiveyear drought that
precipitated the Syrian civil war was successfully weathered by Jordan and
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
A sidebar offers “The
Water Conflict Chronology” at the site www. worldwater.org/water-conflict.
There is presented an extensive tabulation of 551 conflicts
[http://www.worldwater.org/conflict/list/] in which water played an important
role. Accompanying this is a map.
WATER CONFLICTS 2017
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
www.worldwater.org/water-conflict. There is presented an extensive tabulation
of 551 conflicts [http://www. worldwater.org/conflict/list/] 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
on a local dam in India. Militia fires blanks at crowd.
pipeline is damaged in Pakistan. Mistaken for gas pipeline.
State militants raid Great Manmade River Project pumping station in N. Africa.
Provides water to Libyan cities.
supply in Damascus, Syria, periodically cut off. These springs supply water to
4 million people.
clash over water shortages in Sehore district, India.
Coalition vs. ISIS destroys main pipeline to Raqqa, Syria. Damaged by
action destroys water facilities in Al Mokha, Yemen. Scores of people killed as
clash over ecological impact of proposed coal plant. Protestors in and near Dhaka
battle about ecosystems and fisheries.
clashes in Darfur (N. Africa) between farmers and herders over water access.
More than 70 killed.
floods villages east of Aleppo. Water pumped from lake as part of civil war.
3 million people left without reliable access to water in the Ukraine. War
damage to infrastructure.
in vicinity of Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River. Dam may have been target of
injured in clashes between farmers and herdsmen over water in the Sudan.
militants burn water purification plant in Iraq near Mosul.
militias fight over underground water storage tank, subSaharan Africa.
over clean water turns violent and one protestor is killed, sub-Saharan Africa.
well is poisoned in Somalia, killing more than 30 people.
Soldiers were the
in Yemen destroy water and electrical systems.
and herdsmen fight over water, sub-Saharan Africa.
for Bari community in Somalia cut off as part of war.
over water shortages turn violent and damage water storage tanks.
and protestors fight during a march against cut-offs of water and electricity,
killed during fighting over access to water by herdsmen and farmers, sub-Saharan
in Yemen destroy water and electrical facilities in Sanaa and Taizz.
forces capture Euphrates River water treatment and pumping plants from ISIS.
over access to clean water turns violent in Ghana.
planted at water, oil, and gas pipelines explodes in Iraq.
and electrical systems are attacked by coalition forces in Yemen.
protesting lack of access to water are allegedly beaten and tortured by
military in sub-Sahara.
over access to water and over salary disputes turn violent in Yemen.
in the Sudan between two clans over water ownership leaves six dead.
in Yemen hit water supply systems.
killed in class over water access in Darfur, Sudan.
bomb damages water truck and a tank in Egypt.
destroy water pipe going through their community, protesting lack of benefits
troops charged with attacking Somalian water source.
Jordanian officials are shot at when trying to prevent the drilling of a water
Africans riot over water shortages.
forces bomb water and electrical facilities in Yemen.
killed, 30 injured in clan vs. clan battle over water and land in South Sudan.
killed in battle over water point in Somalia.
blocked in Algeria by protestors complaining they receive water only once every
fight police in protest in South Africa over access to water.
attacks on water facility in Eastern Ukraine leave residents without reliable
and safe water.
protest lack of clean water and adequate sanitation.
million in Yemen affected by cutting of power lines to water supplies.
citizen groups in South Africa fight over electrical and water connections
alleged to be illegal.
government forces kill 12 Houthi in battles at two water wells.
airstrikes hit water facilities in Yemen.
protests occur in Tunisia over water allocations.
over water outages in Sudan turn violent.
Taliban militants blow up Afghan dam.
Algerian government shut down by protests over water cuts.
Qaeda militants destroy water tankers.
protests erupt in South Africa over lack of clean water.
killed in conflict over water supplies by two Iraqi clans.
killed, more injured in protests in Guinea over lack of electricity and clean
Mali, water pumps destroyed in conflict over clean water.
Yemen, 5 killed, 11 injured in airstrikes on water facilities.
10 in Nigeria over protests about inadequate food, water, healthcare.
10, wound 16 in battle at watering point in South Sudan.
forces destroy water pipes in Palestine.
African student protest against water and power outages and fees becomes
of water triggers violent protest in Guinea.
over lack of drinking water turns violent in Morocco.
turn violent over lack of water and power services in Guinea.
about lack of drinking water become violent in Morocco.
in water and power lead to violence in Guinea.
block roads protesting lack of drinking water.
wounded in Somalian water dispute.
hits water and electrical equipment in Yemen.
battle police over water and electricity cuts in Guinea.
diverts water from village in Iraq.
killed in dispute over well in Somalia.
destroy water well in Kenya.
hits water and electricity facilities in Yemen.
airstrikes hit water and electricity facilities in Yemen.
conflict over water and land kills at least 14.
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.