We have been fighting wars over the most valuable resource on the planet since thousands of years B.C. We speak today of water wars as if they are a new development in history. But as the most valuable natural resource on earth, water has long been the focus of conflict over territory, supply, and equitable distribution for all its essential purpose as source of sustainability and survival.
The Pacific Institute, based in California, is a well-spring of information about water policy and water advocacy. A visit to their website (worldwater.org) or to their Facebook page provides an ever-changing and provocative source of information on the world’s freshwater resources.
A most interesting feature is a chronology of water conflict. Entries are categorized by type to include:
- Control of Water Resources: where water supplies or access to water is at the root of tensions.
- Military Tool: where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation or state as a weapon during a military action.
- Political Tool: where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation, state, or non-state actor for a political goal.
- Terrorism: where water resources, or water systems, are either targets or tools of violence or coercion by non-state actors.
- Military Target: where water resource systems are targets of military actions by nations or states.
- Development Disputes: where water resources or water systems are a major source of contention and dispute in the context of economic and social development.
To give you some idea of the variety and historical extent of this history, let me provide a few quick, evocative examples quoted from the list:
3000 BC: Ancient Sumerian legend recounts…