Iowa Public Television


Water A Cause of War in Coming Decades

posted on March 23, 2012

  WASHINGTON (AP) - Drought, floods and a lack of fresh water may
cause significant global instability and conflict in the coming
decades, as developing countries scramble to meet demand from
exploding populations while dealing with the effects of climate
change, U.S. intelligence agencies said in a report Thursday.
     An assessment reflecting the joint judgment of federal
intelligence agencies says the risk of water issues causing wars in
the next 10 years is minimal even as they create tensions within
and between states and threaten to disrupt national and global food
markets. But beyond 2022, it says the use of water as a weapon of
war or a tool of terrorism will become more likely, particularly in
South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
     The report is based on a classified National Intelligence
Estimate on water security, which was requested by Secretary of
State Hillary Rodham Clinton and completed last fall. It says
floods, scarce and poor quality water, combined with poverty,
social tension, poor leadership and weak governments will
contribute to instability that could lead the failure of numerous
     Those elements "will likely increase the risk of instability
and state failure, exacerbate regional tensions and distract
countries from working with the United States on important policy
objectives," said the report, which was released at a State
Department event commemorating World Water Day.
     Clinton, who unveiled a new U.S. Water Partnership that aims to
share American water management expertise with the rest of the
world, called the findings "sobering."
     "These threats are real and they do raise serious security
concerns," she said.
     The report noted that countries have in the past tried to
resolve water issues through negotiation but said that could change
as water shortages become more severe.
     "We judge that as water shortages become more acute beyond the
next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as
leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist
objectives, also will become more likely beyond 10 years," it
     The report predicts that upstream nations - more powerful than
their downstream neighbors due to geography - will limit access to
water for political reasons and that countries will regulate
internal supplies to suppress separatist movements and dissident
     At the same time, terrorists and rogue states may target or
threaten to target water-related infrastructure like dams and
reservoirs more frequently. Even if attacks do not occur or are
only partially successful, the report said "the fear of massive
floods or loss of water resources would alarm the public and cause
governments to take costly measures to protect the water
     The unclassified summary of the intelligence estimate does not
identify the specific countries most at risk. But it notes that the
study focused on several specific rivers and water basins. Those
included the Nile in Egypt, Sudan and nations farther south, the
Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq and the greater Middle East, the
Mekong in China and Southeast Asia, the Jordan that separates
Israel from the Palestinian territories, the Indus and the
Brahmaputra in India and South Asia as well as the Amu Darya in
Central Asia.
     At a U.N. news conference in New York marking World Water Day,
Ania Grobicki, executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership,
which includes government, private sector, academic and
nongovernmental groups, said, "Water is a global issue and is
increasingly seen as a global risk."
     She pointed to the World Economic Forum's 2011 Global Risk
Report which for the first time included water as one of the top
five global risks. The report said the rapidly rising global
population and growing prosperity are putting "unsustainable
pressure" on resources and demand for water, food and energy is
expected to rise by 30 percent to 50 percent in the next two
     "Shortages could cause social and political instability,
geopolitical conflict and irreparable environmental damage," the
report warned.
     On the plus side, speakers highlighted a report released earlier
this month showing that the world's nations achieved a U.N. goal of
cutting in half the proportion of people without access to safe
drinking water five years ahead of the 2015 target.
     The report, issued by the U.N. children's agency and the World
Health Organization, said over 2 billion people gained access to
safe drinking water between 1990 and 2010. That means 89 percent of
the world's population, or 6.1 billion people, had access to safe
water sources at the end of 2010, but 11 percent, or 783 million,
still don't, including about 70 percent of Somalia's citizens.

Tags: agriculture developing countries Hillary Clinton pink slime water