Will be there a war over water resources in the future? I can almost guarantee that there will be. No I am not predicting the future, I am just channeling the past. Wars over water have already occurred. The wars may not have been solely about obtaining water, but I challenge you to name one war that had one goal and was about one thing. Water has played a key part in every war in arid regions since the beginning of human wars.
Here is a list of times water has been directly involved in human conflict. It doesn’t list the times water was unintentionally affected by human conflict as I’m confident that list is next to impossible to compile. http://www.worldwater.org/conflict/list/
The point is, water is essential to life, denying someone water is an easy way to break an individual. Denying a population water is an easy way to break a country, or a rebellion. Couple that with a growing scarcity of clean fresh water. Global mismanagement of water resources leaves water harder to treat and more expensive to turn into potable water. To put it into perspective, the water system I work for could spend every single tax dollar the municipality collects. This isn’t the make work wish list, it is the list of stuff that needs to be done. It already isn’t cheap to treat water, what if the cost were to double?
Global warming, even if it won’t end the world itself, it will definitely impact the world’d fresh water. A rise of even a few degrees will increase the humidity in the air, humidity in the air is water that isn’t on the ground or in the ground. Deserts will expand, making less room for people. There will be mass migrations. Just watch if you live in an area that is already water stressed, what will happen if the supply is decreased?
When the scarcity becomes widely know, the public will demand action to secure their water supply. Dams and reservoirs will be built. These will limit the volume of water available down stream, how fast will those downstream get angry? What will they be prepared to do? If it is with in the same country expect lawsuits regarding water rights to fly back and forth. If it is between two different countries? Expect the bullets to fly. As human beings we don’t share very well. In this article from The Economist on water in the middle east, it examines the distribution of water in the region.
“The tributaries of the upper Jordan river, however, which straddle Lebanon, Israel and the Golan Heights, remain unregulated. During its occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, Israel controlled the territory’s water. But while Lebanon now controls most of its own land, Israel still controls the sources of two of the three tributaries and gets most of the water. A study by AFIAL, a Beirut-based organisation, and researchers at the University of East Anglia has now pinpointed the assymetry of the division. Lebanon uses approximately 1% of the 350m to 550m cubic metres that flow each year, with the rest going to Israel (Syria, which has no control over its territory where the rivers lie, gets none). On equitable shares, Lebanon should get 15%, according to an estimate by one water expert.
It is unclear if the report’s findings will have any effect. The paper was circulated at February’s World Water Forum, an annual get-together of hydrophiles, and some Lebanese politicians, including the president, Michel Suleiman, have copies. Hizbullah may wade in, too. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Shia political party-cum-militia which currently controls the government and is anxious to look after its support base in the poor south, mentioned trans-boundary water no less than five times in his victory speech after the 2006 war with Israel.
In 2002 when Lebanon built a pumping station on the Hasbani, one of the three tributaries, international mediators had to step in to calm threats of war with Israel. With the region in turmoil and with rainfall plentiful, a serious water fight is unlikely at present. But in calmer times, that may change.”
Is it an accident that Israel held an area for 18 years through military action where they also controlled the water in the region? Even if water wasn’t the primary reason, it wasn’t ignored by the political and military leaders on all sides.
Will it get this bad in North America? That is hard to say. People used to water rationing and scarcity build conservation behavior into their culture, we in North America are far away from conserving water. In the last 60 years there hasn’t been a major drought, we have been lucky. In the past there have been droughts lasting longer than 50 years in the American South West. If that were to happen today, where would the region get it’s water? As it is today the water in the Colorado River never makes it to the sea, every drop is removed for human consumption. There isn’t anymore to take.