Water Currents: Water Conflict

Community members in Mayendit County, South Sudan, use their new borehole, which they manually drilled with support from the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Photo credit: Samaritan’s Purse

Water Currents is produced biweekly by USAID’s E3 Water Office. Each issue contains recent news and articles on water sector issues, partner and donor updates, latest sector research, and a special focus on one topic. Please provide your feedback and suggestions by contacting the waterteam@usaid.gov.

Competition and conflict over water resources extends back thousands of years. Water is a fundamental and irreplaceable resource in all societies. Therefore, it is not surprising that water management is complex and that water-related interests are frequently contested. The risk of water-related violence and conflict is growing, as scarce water resources face ever-increasing pressures from growing populations and environmental degradation.

This issue contains open access articles and reports from 2017, as well as several news articles on water, conflict, and peacebuilding published so far in 2018. Also included are selected USAID resources on water-related conflict.

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Water Currents - In Focus

Water, Conflict and Peacebuilding – Overviews

A Matter of Survival: Learning to Cooperate Over WaterWilson Center, January 16, 2018. Members of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, convened by a coalition of 15 countries, share their insights on water and peace in this panel discussion video. The panel also developed a set of recommendations designed to prevent water-related conflicts.

The Water Conflict Chronology: Water Conflicts Over the Centuries and MillenniaCircle of Blue, June 2017. In this podcast Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute discusses some of the lessons learned from past water conflicts and explores what kind of trends have emerged. Additional resources on water conflict are available on the Pacific Institutewebsite.

Assessment of Transboundary River Basins for Potential Hydro-Political TensionsGlobal Environmental Change, June 2017. This paper presents a systematic, global assessment of transboundary watersheds, identifying regions more likely to experience hydro-political tensions over the next decade and beyond, based upon environmental, political, and economic indicators.

From the Front Lines: How Global Conflicts Are Changing Water’s ValueCircle of Blue, August 2017. In this series of podcasts experts discuss water conflict issues and describe factors contributing to water conflict in Kenya and Yemen.

Water. Power. ConflictKonrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2017. Cross-border water resources open up numerous opportunities for countries to work together, according to this report on water issues in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile ContextsThe World Bank, March 2017. This report examines the dynamic between two sets of very real and very urgent risks—water management and the management of conflict and violence.

U.S. Government Global Water StrategyU.S. Department of State; USAID, November 2017.  This first-ever, whole-of-government Global Water Strategy includes a strategic objective that addresses the need to “Reduce Conflict by Promoting Cooperation on Shared Waters” with the aim to strengthen the political will for cooperation and support the cooperative management of shared water resources in regions where water is, or may become, a source of conflict.

Water and U.S. National SecurityCouncil on Foreign Relations, January 2017. The failure to invest in water and security now could mean that the United States and other international actors will pay billions later to respond to crises, whether they be humanitarian emergencies, disease outbreaks, or conflicts within or between states.

Water and Conflict – Geographic Studies

Water, Crisis and Conflict in MENA: How Can Water Service Providers Improve Their Resilience? International Institute for Environment and Development, October 2017. Protracted conflicts and population movements across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have hindered the ability of local water service providers to maintain adequate levels of services. This study analyzes the efforts of the United Nations, NGOs, and other actors to maintain the water supply during conflicts in the region.

Vice-President Eduardo Stein on Water Conflict in Guatemala: Origins and SolutionsNew Security Beat, February 2017. The effects of environmental change such as drought have been especially acute in Guatemala, because they aggravate already existing dysfunction and instability. In this article, the Guatemalan vice president discusses factors that undermine the capacity of his government to address water supply issues in the country.

Contested Waters: Subnational Scale Water Conflict in PakistanUnited States Institute of Peace, April 2017. This report reviews water-related conflict at local, provincial, and interprovincial scales in Pakistan, suggesting technical, institutional, and political changes that could help Pakistan negotiate its water-related conflicts.

Water, Conflict and Cooperation: Managing Water Conflicts Through Water Governance DecentralizationWater Journalists Africa, December 2017. The Water Resources Management Act of 2011 in Zambia gives local communities the authority to manage water resources. The new policies have empowered these communities and have been met with applause from traditional leaders.

Facilitating Public Participation in Water Resources Management: Reflections from TanzaniaEcology and Society, April 2017. Over a decade ago, Tanzania implemented sweeping changes in its water management policies. This paper examines the role of water users’ associations, using case studies of three basins—the Pangani, Wami/Ruvu, and Lake Victoria—to examine their strengths, challenges, and role in resolving water conflicts.

Water Conflict Resolution and Management

Integrating Climate Adaptation, Water Governance and Conflict Management Policies in Lake Riparian Zones: Insights from African DrylandsEnvironmental Science & Policy, January 2018. This study provides an analysis of the transboundary policies relating to climate adaptation, water governance, and conflict management of the Lake Chad basin.

Development and Application of Coupled System Dynamics and Game Theory: A Dynamic Water Conflict Resolution MethodPLoS One, December 2017. Citing the limitation of many game models for dealing with water conflict, this article discusses two models of conflict resolution over water resources applied the Langat River basin.

Water Diplomacy: Making Water Cooperation WorkPlanetary Security Initiative, April 2017. This policy brief discusses how to improve multi-track water diplomacy and transboundary water cooperation, with examples from South Asia.

Backdraft #5: Ken Conca on the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Water Conflict and CooperationNew Security Beat, March 2017. Ken Conca is a professor of international relations at American University. In this article, he discusses guiding principles to minimize the chances of water-related conflict and maximize the chances of sustainable, equitable development.

Conflict ManagementGlobal Water Partnership (GWP), 2017. The GWP’s "Integrated Water Resources Management Toolbox" is a free, online resource on good water governance. This chapter on conflict management looks at four communication-based intervention tools for dispute management: facilitation, mediation, fact finding, and arbitration.

International Water Conflict and Cooperation: Challenges and OpportunitiesWater International, January 2017. This article details the nature of water conflict and water cooperation. It discusses how water conflicts can be resolved, how water can be seen as a vehicle for change between states, and future directions that can be taken in transboundary water conflict research.

Re-Staging La Rasgioni: Lessons Learned from Transforming a Traditional Form of Conflict Resolution to Engage Stakeholders in Agricultural Water GovernanceWater, April 2017. Until a few decades ago, residents of Gallura (in Sardinia, Italy) used a public practice of conflict mediation named La Rasgioni (the Reason). This paper adapts the practice for resolving water-related conflicts with a “dialogical tool,” aimed at enhancing social learning by adopting theatrical techniques.

Forest, Water and People: The Roles and Limits of Mediation in Transforming Watershed Conflict in Northern ThailandForest and Society, November 2017. Drawing from a case study in Mae Tia Mae Tae watershed in northern Thailand, this study explores how mediation by an external third party can contribute to the transformation of conflicts in the watershed.

Serious Gaming in WaterMediate, July 2017. Researchers have found that gaming is a major tool for understanding conflict resolution and negotiation over water resources. Educating through real-life examples helps students and major stakeholders alike practice different behaviors in a supportive learning environment that promotes best-practice water management.

Water and Conflict – USAID Resources

Water and Conflict: A Toolkit for ProgrammingUSAID, 2014. This document explores the relationship among water, conflict, and cooperation; highlights lessons learned from relevant development and peace-building programs; and provides a Rapid Appraisal Guide to support officers in identifying and evaluating the conflict risk and peace-building potential of water programs.

USAID Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP). SWP is a 5-year USAID-funded cooperative agreement that supports thought leadership, innovation, and action in global water security. It is currently publishing a series of six toolkits on water security; four have been released so far: Improving Water Security, Water Security AssessmentsWater Security Planning, and Funding Water Security. These and other resources are available on SWP’s website.


Water Currents - In the News

Dangerously Low on Water Cape Town Now Faces ‘Day Zero.’ New York Times, January 30, 2018. If water levels keep falling, Cape Town will declare Day Zero in less than three months. Taps in homes and businesses will be turned off until the rains come. The city’s 4 million residents will have to line up for water rations at 200 collection points. The city is bracing for the impact on public health and social order.

‘Proactive Diplomacy’ in Mekong River Dispute Only Way to Resolve Brewing ConflictSouth China Morning Post, January 14, 2018. More platforms like the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation system are needed to quell dissent in Asia’s water issues.

Egypt, Ethiopia Look to Avoid Conflict Over Nile DamPRI, January 18, 2018. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pledged not to let differences over a dam in Ethiopia on the Nile River ruin relations between the two countries.

If you would like to feature your organization's materials or suggest other content for upcoming issues of Water Currents, please send them to Dan Campbell, Knowledge Creation/WASH Specialist, at dcampbell@waterckm.com.



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