WATER TOO IMPORTANT TO FIGHT OVER?! MAKE YOUR OWN MIND UP
October 10, 2015 / Glen Reynolds
With a steady stream of bleak predictions that “water wars” will be fought over dwindling supplies in the 21st century, battles between two Sumerian city-states 4,500 years ago seem to set a worrying precedent. But the good news, many experts say, is that the conflict between Lagash and Umma over irrigation rights in what is now Iraq was the last time two states went to war over water.Down the centuries since then, international rivals sharing waters such as the Jordan River, the Nile, the Ganges or the Parana have generally favored cooperation over conflict.So if history can betrusted, things may stay that way.
“The simple explanation is that water is simply too important to fight over,” said Aaron Wolf, a professor at Oregon State University. “Nations often go to the brink of war over water and then resolve their differences.”Since the war between Lagash and Umma, recorded on a stone carving showing vultures flying off with the heads of defeated Umma warriors, no wars have been fought and 3,600 international water treaties have been signed, he said.Yet politicians regularly warn that water shortages caused by surging populations and climate change could trigger conflicts this century in a world where a billion people in developing countries lack accessto clean drinking water.”Fierce competition for fresh water may well become a source of conflict and wars in the future,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in 2001. The English word “rival” even comes from the Latin “rivalis” meaning “someone sharing a river.”Other experts say international “water wars” are unlikely.