Behind the escalating violence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the epidemic of civil unrest across the wider region, is a growing shortage of water.
New peer-reviewed research published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) shows that water scarcity linked to climate change is now a global problem playing a direct role in aggravating major conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.
Numerous cities in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are facing “short and declining water supplies per capita,” which is impacting “worldwide” on food production, urban shortages, and even power generation.
In this month’s issue of the Journal of the AWWA, US water management expert Roger Patrick assesses the state of the scientific literature on water scarcity in all the world’s main regions, finding that local water shortages are now having “more globalised impacts”.
He highlights the examples of “political instability in the Middle East and the potential for the same in other countries” as illustrating the increasing “global interconnectedness” of water scarcity at local and regional levels.
In 2012, a US intelligence report based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate on water security, commissioned by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, concluded that after 2022, droughts, floods and freshwater depletion would increase the likelihood of water being used as a weapon or war, or a tool of terrorism.
The new study in the Journal of the AWWA, however, shows that the US intelligence community is still playing catch-up with facts on the ground. Countries like Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where US counter-terrorism operations are in full swing, are right now facing accelerating instability from terrorism due to the destabilising impacts of unprecedented water shortages.
Thirsty people, failing states
The UN defines a region as water stressed if the amount of renewable fresh water available per person per year is below 1,700 cubic metres. Below 1,000, the region is defined as experiencing water scarcity, and below 500 amounts to “absolute water scarcity”.
According to the AWWA study, countries already experiencing water stress or far worse include Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Syria, Yemen, India, China, and parts of the United States.
Many, though not all, of these countries are experiencing protracted conflicts or civil unrest.
For the complete article, please see Middle East Eye.