Public debates in a democratic society often become very charged. Especially when the environment is the topic, the
clock always seems to be ticking at the 11th hour. This understanding of finite time is practically inevitable in the debate over climate change. But a sense of impending doom also permeates discussions over global water supplies. According to one bleak but popular scenario, people will soon fight wars ever the dwindling resource of drinking water. This is the message spread by Greenpeace in educational materials it distributes to students. Water is indeed a problem between
many countries. Israel and the Palestinians both need the Jordan River’s water. Syria and Iraq both have problems with Tukish dams threatening to curtail the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates.India is worried about supplies from the great Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. There are likewise concerns about the Irrawaddy – the source of ife for Myanmar – and the Mekong, on which Cambodia depends enormously for food and water.
Also, as populations rise, more people will need more water. Competition will rise, as could conflict. But wars? Future water wars could become more likely because the world’s population is increasing. More people need more food and economies generally keep growing. That heightens the pressure on water as a resource. Multinational organizations including the World Bank and the United Nations report that conflicts over water use have increased. These problems could worsen existing differences between local populations and between neighboring countries. But does that really mean we will be seeing more wars over water in the future? No. A glance at history shows that conflicts over water have rarely been an essential, let alone a sole cause for war.