Global water resources
Global water resources

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Global water resources

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
NileEgypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritreasiltation, flooding, water flow/diversion
Euphrates, TigrisIraq, Syria, Turkeydams, reduced water flow, salinisation, hydroelectricity
Jordan, Yarmouk, Litani, West Bank aquifersIsrael, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestinians on the West Bankwater flow/diversion, allotment of water from common aquifers
Brahmaputra, GangesBangladesh, Indiasiltation, flooding, water flow/diversion
MekongKampuchea, Laos, Thailand, Vietnamwater flow, flooding, irrigation
ParanaArgentina, Brazildam, land inundation
LaucaBolivia, Chiledam, salinisation
Rio Grande, ColoradoMexico, United Statessalinisation, water flow, agrochemical pollution
Great LakesCanada, United Stateswater diversion
RhineFrance, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germanyindustrial pollution
DanubeAustria, Slovakia, Hungarywater diversion, hydroelectricity
S278_18

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371