Troubled Waters

The odyssey of water conflicts in an era of growing scarcity.

If there is an area where we feel the most the impact of climate change, it’s water. In a warming world, the fight for water can push nations apart, as the fragile hydropolitical balance is disrupted by scarcity.

From Drizzles to Downpours

A chronology of strife: pacing water conflicts

Clashes over water have always existed in modern times, but increasing freshwater scarcity is speeding up the phenomenon. Recorded events of conflicts have increased in the last 20 years, as a downpour of water struggles is shaping our present.


water conflicts in the last decade

Source: Pacific Institute, October 2018

No. of Conflicts

A Leaking Powder Keg

An atlas of water dispute

The registered conflicts of the last decade all share one common driver: the location of water resources. As lakes, rivers and aquifers are oblivious to borders, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has addressed through its Transboundary Water Assessment Program the ability of these shared water resources to sustain the ecosystem services for human wellbeing. According to UNEP, there is a tendency for risk to increase ‘downstream’, with the exception of transboundary governance arrangements for aquifers, which are largely absent.

Wherever governance and socioeconomic risk touch medium values, conflicts are more likely to explode.