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Violence over Water Increases: New Data from the Water Conflict Chronology

· Water,Security

The Pacific Institute been working on water related conflicts for nearly three decades, and we maintain the best global, open-source database on these conflicts: The Water Conflict Chronology.

We have just released a major update to the Chronology, adding over 300 new instances of armed conflicts associated with water resources and water systems, identified from news reports, eyewitness accounts, and other conflict databases. Created by the Pacific Institute in the 1980s, the database includes all known verified instances where water and water systems (1) trigger conflicts; (2) are used as weapons in conflicts; or (3) are targets or casualties of violence.

The large number of the new entries are the result of improved data collection from other global databases on violence, war, and conflict, and especially, a major increase in recent attacks on civilian water systems in the ongoing violence in the Middle East, especially in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. A recent journal article also addresses this issue in more detail. Also notable is the continuing violence in parts of the Sahel, Africa where traditional herders and farmers are competing for scarce water resources as populations grow, extreme weather events worsen, and land and water become political flashpoints.

As with all previous entries, each event is identified with the date, location, category (trigger, weapon, or casualty), a short description, and a verifying citation or source. The Chronology now includes over 900 cases of violence associated with water resources and systems and shows a clear acceleration in recent decades. The figure below shows the overall increase in the number of events in the Chronology between 1980 and 2018.

Water-related conflicts by year from 1980 to 2018.

The Pacific Institute’s work on water and conflict has accelerated efforts worldwide to identify strategies for reducing the threat of violence over water resources, including technical and engineering solutions to improve access and efficient use of water, the application of political and legal tools to protect civilian water systems (also addressed in a new journal article), and new economic approaches to reduce inequities in freshwater availability and affordability. Additional case studies and analyses will be available from the Institute in the coming months and from joint efforts with the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) partnership – a joint effort of several international research and policy organizations.