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Security Environment Conflict

Water Wars? Think Again

Refugees collect water, courtesy of Oxfam East Africa/flickr

This article was originally published April 15 2014 by New Security Beatby, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

The global water wars are almost upon us!

At least that’s how it seems to many. The signs are troubling: Egypt and Ethiopia have recently increased their aggressive posture and rhetoric over the construction of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the headwaters of the Blue Nile, Egypt’s major artery since antiquity. India continues to build new dams that are seen by its rival Pakistan as a threat to its “water interests” and thus its national security. Turkey, from its dominant position upstream, has been diverting the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and increasing water stress in the already-volatile states of Iraq and Syria.

It has been claimed for decades that a confluence of factors, including water scarcity, societal unrest, and strategic maneuvering, will inevitably push states and other actors to act aggressively, perhaps even violently, to secure precious water resources. So are we finally witnessing the first flashes of the coming age of water wars?