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"Control of Water Resources (state and non-state actors): where water supplies or access to water is at root of tensions. Military Tool (state actors): where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation or state as a weapon during a military action. Political Tool (state and non-state actors): where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation, state, or non-state actor for a political goal. Terrorism (non-state actors): where water resources, or water systems, are either targets or tools of violence or coercion by non-state actors. Military Target (state actors): where water resource systems are targets of military actions by nations or states. Development Disputes (state and non-state actors): where water resources or water systems are a major source of contention and dispute in context of economic and social development." Mark de Villiers, author of "Water Wars" contrasts, in ITT's aforementioned Guidebook, two opposing views about likelihood of water-related conflicts. Thomas Homer-Dixon, Canadian security analyst says:
"Water supplies are needed for all aspects of national activity, including production and use of military power, and rich countries are as dependent on water as poor countries are ... Moreover, about 40 percent of world's population lives in 250 river basins shared by more than one country ... But ... wars over river water between upstream and downstream neighbors are likely only in a narrow set of circumstances. The downstream country must be highly dependent on water for its national well-being; upstream country must be able to restrict river's flow; there must be a history of antagonism between two countries; and, most important, downstream country must be militarily much stronger than upstream country."
Frederick Frey, of University of Pennsylvania, disagrees:
"Water has four primary characteristics of political importance: extreme importance, scarcity, maldistribution, and being shared. These make internecine conflict over water more likely than similar conflicts over other resources. Moreover, tendencies towards water conflicts are exacerbated by rampant population growth and water-wasteful economic development. A national and international 'power shortage,' in sense of an inability to control these two trends, makes problem even more alarming."
Who is right?
The citizens of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states in India are enmeshed in bloody skirmishes over waters of Carvery River. Colonel Quaddafi has been depleting Iittoral aquifer in Sahara for decades now - to detriment of all his neighbors - yet, not a single violent incident has been recorded. Last year, Rio Grande has failed to reach Gulf of Mexico - for first time in many decades. Yet, no war erupted between USA and Mexico.
As water become more scarce, market solutions are bound to emerge. Water is heavily subsidized and, as a direct result, atrociously wasted. More realistic pricing would do wonders on demand side. Water rights are already traded electronically in USA. Private utilities and water markets are next logical step.
Water recycling is another feasible alternative. Despite unmanageable financial problems and laughable prices, municipality of Moscow maintains enormous treatment plants and re-uses most of its water.
Wars are outcomes of cultures and mores. Not every casus belli leads to belligerence. Not every conflict, however severe, ends in battle. Mankind has invented numerous other conflict-resolution mechanisms. There is no reason to assume that water would cause more warfare than oil or national pride. But water scarcity sure causes dislocation, ethnic tension, impoverishment, social anomy, and a host of other ills. It is in fending off these pernicious, all-pervasive, and slow-acting social processes that we should concentrate our efforts.
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He is the the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.