Water a cause for war in coming decades

Washington - Drought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant global instability and conflict in the coming decades as developing countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while dealing with climate change, US intelligence agencies said in a report released on Thursday.

The assessment says the risk of water issues causing wars in the next 10 years is minimal even as they create tensions within and between states and threaten to disrupt national and global food markets. But beyond 2022, it says the use of water as a weapon of war or a tool of terrorism will become more likely, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

The report is based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate on water security, which was requested by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and completed last fall.

It says floods, scarce and poor quality water, combined with poverty, social tension, poor leadership and weak governments will contribute to instability that could lead the failure of numerous states.

Those elements "will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, exacerbate regional tensions, and distract countries from working with the United States on important policy objectives," said the report, to be released at a State Department event commemorating World Water Day.

At the event Thursday, Clinton is to unveil a new US Water Partnership that aims to share American water management expertise with the rest of the world.

"We assess that a water-related state-on-state conflict is unlikely during the next 10 years," the report said, noting that in the past countries have tried to resolve water issues through negotiation. 

Water as lever

"However, we judge that as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives, also will become more likely beyond 10 years."

The report predicts that upstream nations - more powerful than their downstream neighbours due to geography - will limit access to water for political reasons and that countries will regulate internal supplies to suppress separatist movements and dissident populations.

At the same time, terrorists and rogue states may target or threaten to target water-related infrastructure like dams and reservoirs more frequently. Even if attacks do not occur or are only partially successful, the report said "the fear of massive floods or loss of water resources would alarm the public and cause governments to take costly measures to protect the water infrastructure."

The unclassified summary of the intelligence estimate does not identify the specific countries most at risk. But it notes that the study focused on several specific rivers and water basins.

Those included the Nile in Egypt, Sudan and nations further south, the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq and the greater Middle East, the Mekong in China and Southeast Asia, the Jordan that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, the Indus and the Brahmaputra in India and South Asia as well as the Amu Darya in Central Asia.

Read more on: us water security
taariq.janodien 2012-03-22 10:49:11 PM
Oh well, at least they can say "we didn't invade them for their oil" from now on.
wesleywt 2012-03-23 12:40:25 AM
My phone can't reply directly to your thread. You argument is incredibly dumb. Why would America want to control the unstable ME with the Saudis wanting to kill the Iranians, the Iranians want to kill the Isrealis. So that they can become independent of stable well known and dependant economies of Mexico and Canada? It boggles the mind.
wesleywt 2012-03-23 12:47:01 AM
And by the way. Religion is the dumbest human invention ever made. But most attacks and savagery committed in the ME are political under the guise of religion. It can teach me nothing.
Brett Michielin 2012-03-23 01:21:30 AM
Harvest your water I have a 5000 litre tank at my house easy problem solved.
Stephen 2012-03-23 02:01:31 AM
War over water... classic
Colin Skelton 2012-03-23 03:10:36 AM
So whats news about this? It has been prodicted this will happen for at least 10 years. Even back in the 70,s the Shah of Iran told David Frost " I will swop you all of our oil for all of your rain "
blip.noodlum 2012-03-23 03:26:19 AM
Well-watered nations, like northern Europe, Northern America, North Asia and New Zealand ought to be free of any of these worries.
KarelLewyPhillips 2012-03-23 05:13:35 AM
That is their mentality. Any excuse for a fight.
PaulPeter 2012-03-23 06:25:13 AM
Upstream nations will often not have access to the sea though. The downstream nations can fight back by closing ports to their unfreindly neighbours in those situations? I still don't know why floods are a problem - if humans just developed outside of the floodplains of rivers they would only be marginally affected by floods.
Koos Willemse 2012-03-23 07:34:42 AM
Well, the countries with a lot of oil don't have a lot of water....