2 Water shortages and international disputes
Water shortages have caused major international disputes in many parts of the world (Table 3). Water management is particularly difficult in areas where the catchment of a river crosses many countries. Egypt, for example, gets most of its water from the River Nile, whose flow originates mainly from seven upstream countries. In the Middle East, water resources are of strategic concern, and a major cause of political conflict. Full-scale water wars are unlikely, but tension between countries competing for water is escalating to the extent that in some areas war has been threatened. The following quotes illustrate points of view on water disputes:
Attributed to Mark Twain:
'Whisky's for drinkin', water's for fightin' '
A considered view from a country involved in water disputes, from an Israeli Defence Forces analyst (Wolf, 1999):
'Why go to war over water? For the price of one week's fighting, you could build five desalination plants. No loss of life, no international pressure, and a reliable supply you don't have to defend in hostile territory.'
Table 3 International water disputes.
|Rivers/aquifers||Countries involved in dispute||Subject of dispute|
|Nile||Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea||siltation, flooding, water flow/diversion|
|Euphrates, Tigris||Iraq, Syria, Turkey||dams, reduced water flow, salinisation, hydroelectricity|
|Jordan, Yarmouk, Litani, West Bank aquifers||Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestinians on the West Bank||water flow/diversion, allotment of water from common aquifers|
|Brahmaputra, Ganges||Bangladesh, India||siltation, flooding, water flow/diversion|
|Mekong||Kampuchea, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam||water flow, flooding, irrigation|
|Parana||Argentina, Brazil||dam, land inundation|
|Lauca||Bolivia, Chile||dam, salinisation|
|Rio Grande, Colorado||Mexico, United States||salinisation, water flow, agrochemical pollution|
|Great Lakes||Canada, United States||water diversion|
|Rhine||France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany||industrial pollution|
|Danube||Austria, Slovakia, Hungary||water diversion, hydroelectricity|