The failure to address water problems through diplomacy will lead to new and growing security risks, including for the U.S.
Around 2500 BC, Urlama, the King of the city-state of Lagash, diverted water from boundary irrigation canals between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to deprive a neighboring region, Umma, of water. This act, in a region corresponding to parts of modern day Iraq, Syria, and southern Turkey, was the first recorded political and military dispute over water resources. Four and a half millennia later, water remains an instrument of coercion and a source of tensions and conflict. The Islamic State has reportedly used water as a weapon, depriving communities in Mosul of access to a water supply, and control over water facilities has been used repeatedly, worsening access to safe water for civilian populations.
Fresh water has long been a vital and necessary natural resource, and it has long been a source of tension, a military tool, and a target during war. The links between water and conflict have been the subject of extensive analysis for several decades, beginning with the development of the literature on “environmental security” and water conflicts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In coming years, new factors, including rising populations, industrial and agricultural demand for water, human-induced climate change, and political uncertainties make it increasingly urgent that solutions to water tensions be found and implemented. The failure to address water problems through diplomacy will lead to new and growing security risks, including for the U.S. The U.S. and its allies must develop and employ a wide variety of instruments to reduce instability and the risk of conflict related to growing water problems, before military intervention is needed....
The full essay can be found at the U.S. Army War College WarRoom