Many would agree with the aphorism, often attributed to Mark Twain, that:
Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over
and certainly, a quick scan of Peter Gleick’s history of water conflicts suggests that, not only has water been at the heart of many conflicts, it often has been the weapon of choice:
(compliments to Medill for the above Dipity mashup of Gleick’s list).
On the other hand, there is the view that water can promote cooperation. A recent paper by Todd Jarvis in the journal Ground Water (summarized by Mike Campana) suggests that, because water ignores boundaries and is vital to life, it can be the vehicle that brings conflicting parties together. This is supported by the UNDP observation that:
…in 60 years, there have been nearly 300 international water agreements and only 37 cases of reported violence between states over water.
Aaron Wolf has accumulated a set of databases on transboundary waters and has suggested that the degree of conflict and cooperation is a function of hydropolitical vulnerability and resilience. He and Jerome Delli Priscolli discuss the various dimensions of water conflicts in their new book, Managing and Transforming Water Conflicts.
So what’s your view? Add your comment in honor of World Water Day (March 22, 2010).
P.S. Dipity is a clever bit of free cloudware that combines timeline, flipbook, list, and map views of time/space data. Another example is this Dipity of the February 27, 2010 Chilean Earthquake.
P.P.S 1205.24.03.2010: Edited for readability.