All lakes around Mexico City have dried and it is now sinking into cavernous remains of its withered reservoirs. Soil subsidence is a major problem in cities around world, from Bangkok to Venice. According to "The Economist", town of Cochabamba in Bolivia, once a florid valley is now a dust bowl. Some of its residents receive water only a few hours every two or three days. A World Bank financed project attempts to pipe precious liquid from mountain rivers near city.
Singapore, concerned by its dependence on water from capricious Malaysia, decided last November to purchase water from private sector suppliers who will be required to build one or more desalination plants, capable of providing it with 10% of its annual consumption.
Singapore is so desperate, it even considers importing water from strife-torn Aceh province in Indonesia. The cost of Malaysian fresh water skyrocketed following a bilateral accord with Singapore signed September 2000.
Control of water sources has always served as geopolitical leverage. In Central Asia, both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan often get their way by threatening to throttle their richer neighbors, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan - and by actually cutting them off from nourishing rivers that traverse their territories. This extortion resulted in inordinately cheap supplies of gas, coal, and agricultural products.
To avoid such dependence, Turkmenistan has decided to divert water from catchment basin of one of rivers - Amu Darya - to a $6 billion artificial lake. This inane project is comparable only to China's much-disputed Three Gorges Dam - $30 billion, 180 meters tall hydroelectric plant that will block fierce Yangtze River.
On January 2000, a Kinshasa-based firm, Western Trade Corporation, and an American partner, Sapphire Aqua, proposed to raise financing for a $9 billion set of 1000-2000 km. pipes from Congo River to Middle East and South Africa. Stratfor justly noted that water were to be given free, casting in doubt viability - or even very existence - of such a project.
Con-artists and gullible investors notwithstanding, water is big business. Water Forum 2002, sponsored and organized by World Bank, attracted many NGO's, donors, and private companies. The Agadir conference next month is expected to attract scholars and governments as well. According to government of Morocco, it will deal with "views and experiences on water pricing, cost recovery and interactions between micro and macro policies related to water".
T. Boone Pickens, a corporate raider, has bought water rights from Texans during last year's drought. He succeeded to amass c. 200,000 acre-feet worth c. $200 million.
Economic competition coupled with acute and growing scarcity often presage conflict.
"Water stress" is already on world's agenda at least as firmly as global warming. The Hague Ministerial Declaration released on March 2000 identified seven 'water-related challenges'. This led to establishment of 'World Water Assessment Program' and UNESCO's 'From Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential' (PC to CP) which 'addresses more specifically challenge of sharing water resources primarily from point of view of governments, and develops decision-making and conflict prevention tools for future'."
Simultaneously, Green Cross International and UNESCO floated "Water for Piece" project whose aims are "to enhance awareness and participation of local authorities and public in water conflict resolution an integrated management by facilitating more effective dialogue between all stakeholders." In its efforts to minimize tensions in potential and actual conflict regions, project concentrates on a few case studies in basins of Rhine, Aral Sea, Limpopo/Incomati, Mekong, Jordan River, Danube, and Columbia.
Peter Gleik of Pacific Institute suggested this taxonomy of water-related conflicts (quoted in thewaterpage.com):