Water a cause for war in coming decades

2012-03-22 22:41

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.

  • Taariq - 2012-03-22 22:49

    Oh well, at least they can say "we didn't invade them for their oil" from now on.

      wesleywt - 2012-03-23 00:02

      I am assuming you are being a cliche Taariq and hate America. You do know that the US uses its own oil or imports it from Canada. Next time tell the folks at AQ not to fly planes into buildings if they don't want their people bombed.

      Taariq - 2012-03-23 00:11

      Your ignorance saddens me. One can look objectively at foreign policy without the influence of religious beliefs. Your argument that because America doesn't import from the Middle East, that it has no need to invade other countries is extremely flawed. I do know for a fact that the US also imports from Mexico but this does not make it independent of global oil prices. The fact is that the Middle East has pricing power under the OPEC agreement and that being so gives Mexico/Canada incentive to piggyback on them and sell at that price as well otherwise they can supply their oil elsewhere if the USA is not willing to pay. But if the USA was to gain supply control overseas it gains the ability to lessen reliance on Mexico/Canada. Do you understand this? Or would I have to say "ALL INFIDELS MUST DIE" for you to pay attention?

      Taariq - 2012-03-23 00:17

      And no I do not hate Americans, nor Israelis. It's the governments that are the problem (including the arabs), there are certain elements that want to manipulate the people's beliefs for their own gain. There was a nice quote from the Angels and Demons movie: "Religion is perfect, man is flawed". I'm sure even atheists see the value in such a statement. What I do hate though, are people who do not think before speaking.

      Klaus - 2012-03-23 00:49

      I have to congratulate you on the intelligent and "even" comments you made. What a nice change for this often misused side. Well done..!!!

      Smell - 2012-03-23 02:58

      Except that the problem here is a looming water scarcity. When will the leaders of the developing world realize that there already is an overpopulation of humans on our planet? And when will they provide incentives for birth control in stead of subsidizing procreation? The end result of mindless breeding will be more joblessness, hunger, thirst, strife and war.

      Merven - 2012-03-23 07:16

      And the fact that more than 50 of the world's most wanted terrorists were found in Iraq and Afgan got of cource nothing to do with it, guess who the moron is.

  • wesleywt - 2012-03-23 00:40

    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.

      Colin - 2012-03-23 01:46

      America imports oil from over 70 countries. 25% comes from Canada and Mexico. Mexico supplies the same amount as Saudi Arabia. Currently there are massive oil and gas pipelines being built through Afganistan so the US can access the Turkistan oil and Gas reserves to the north. Turkistan has the worlds 4th largest natural gas reserves. Facts, not BS.

      Peter - 2012-03-23 06:29

      I do agree it seems odd the yanks would so badly want independance from freindly neighbours like Canada and Mexico? Why?

      Gungets - 2012-03-23 07:37

      The world wishes to avoid becoming hostages to a single dominant source of oil, such as Opec. The US wish to ensure that there is limited competition for the oil they get from friendly countries like Mexico and Canada. Should supply from the ME dry up, the rest of the world will want to buy from "friendlies", driving up prices. Colin is correct about oil sources, but remember that if you close any one of them you impact total supply and put pressure on supply volumes, therefore prices.

  • wesleywt - 2012-03-23 00:47

    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.

      Smell - 2012-03-23 02:59

      Wesley you are entitled to your biases. But human savagery predated religion and will outlive religion. The problem is the human condition.

      Nibiru - 2012-03-23 07:27

      Wow the shackles of religion, drummed,indoctrinated and brainwashed into us from birth. We should as free thinking adults start challenging and questioning these weird beliefs and then maybe we can get along with each other

  • Brett - 2012-03-23 01:21

    Harvest your water I have a 5000 litre tank at my house easy problem solved.

  • leedsunitedfc - 2012-03-23 02:01

    War over water... classic

  • colinskel - 2012-03-23 03:10

    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 - 2012-03-23 03:26

    Well-watered nations, like northern Europe, Northern America, North Asia and New Zealand ought to be free of any of these worries.

  • Karel - 2012-03-23 05:13

    That is their mentality. Any excuse for a fight.

  • Peter - 2012-03-23 06:25

    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 - 2012-03-23 07:34

    Well, the countries with a lot of oil don't have a lot of water....

  • Hugh - 2012-03-23 07:50

    That is common cause. Africa for the most part is arid. In the recent droughts Kenya have had to secure their borders with Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. Near border villages in Kenya had armed gaurds protecting their bore holes and such against criminals who came over the border to steal water. O reason to say that the report is wrong

  • lawson.lutchman - 2012-03-23 08:09

    This has got to be the stupidest comments/reporting I have heard since the Y2K hype. Back then I told all who would listen that Y2K was nothing more than speculation on steriods and still... Water will simply be used to politically and socially control people and migration. The technology to desalinate water has been around since the 60's and is standard equipment in most navies around the world. DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!

      Gungets - 2012-03-23 08:33

      Lawson 1. You have to have access to the sea water in the first place. Our neighbours like Swaziland might just find that difficult. -----> 2. It is expensive and also difficult to build the capacity you need. As for Y2K - believe what you like.

  • K0BUSL - 2012-03-23 08:19

    Hey guys, don't worry... the ANC says there is no problem.... even as acid minewater is fast approaching the breeching point in SA's financial capitol. Why should we wait for 2022.....

  • Cameron - 2012-03-23 08:23

    well heres an idea, why not not implement what china has done, I believe it is no more than 2 kids (although I stand to be corrected) this worlds population is bloody ridiculous!

  • richard.fahrenfort - 2012-03-23 08:26

    We all need to see the 3 Zeitgeist movies in order to stop such useless wars.They are free on youtube: Zeitgeist, Zeitgeist: addendum and Zeitgeist: moving forward. Why fight amongst each other when we can be working together to help each other!?

  • Barefoot - 2012-03-23 10:15

    Now the USA is one paranoid country, so obsessed with terrorism

  • Sean - 2012-03-23 12:00

    Until we solve the problem of too many people, we will never be able to solve the problems of there being too little of everything else. Funny how you need to license or permission to do everything except have children.

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