Water and War

Tue, 04/27/2010


By Jill Tatarski, Loyola University New Orleans

As implemented by the United Nations Charter, the purposes of the United Nations are to preserve international peace and security; to develop friendly relations among nations; to cooperate in solving international economic, social, cultural, and humane problems; to promote respect for human rights and freedoms; and to assist nations harmoniously in attaining these means. These purposes were emphasized in the United Nations Millennium Declaration of 2000.

However, the 21st century presents us with new challenges. Poverty, old and new threats to international peace and security, respect for nature and shared responsibility for sustainability are daunting challenges that our world leaders are faced with. In all of these areas, resources and the environment play a vital role. Environmental degradation and scarcity and abundance of natur

al resources are possible sources of conflict and cooperation among nations. Fresh water and sanitation are a prerequisite to achieving the internationally accepted goals in the Millennium Declaration.

Water is a very ‘strategic’ resource, especially in the Middle East where tension between countries is high. Water has become a major political issue; a variety of peace agreements that have been signed or proposed recently have all included water. The former king of Jordan stated, “The next war in the Middle East will be over water.” This statement may become a reality for the future of international conflict.


•growing demand for water
•decline in fresh water availability
•poor health effects from bad water quality
Water is evidently a scarce resource in certain regions. Only 15 years from now, 40 nations in the Middle East and regions of Africa will face water shortages and stress. Water scarcity is a means of supply and demand. Demand for water is ever increasing due to population growth and per capita use. Deteriorating water quality is another crisis we are faced with. Pollution, both domestic and industrial, affects both developed and developing countries. Water usage also has a geopolitical dimension. Water moves from upstream to downstream users, a type of use in one area can affect the water quality and supply downstream. Water use also has social, economic, historical, and cultural aspects to it. All of these challenges do not have one solution and the lack of a suitable legal framework for solving international water disputes presents another roadblock.

Water scarcity and pollution affect ecosystems, health, and agricultural and economic development. Local and regional problems may affect the whole world by threatening global economic development and the world food supply. The projection of a violent conflict over water in the future is based on the growing demand, the decline in fresh water availability, and the poor health effects from bad water quality. Fighting over water does not make much sense economically or politically. We cannot predict the future of possible violence over water, but water scarcity will be at the forefront of the international agenda for many years to come.