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Fights Over Water.

Posted on 29th September 2022

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This report on World Crunch describes the tensions and fights now erupting in Mongolia because of the lack of water.

I sense many readers thinking "Oh. Mongolia. That doesn't effect me." Wrong! it might not effect you yet, but fighting, even full blown wars, over water (and land and other resources in short supply) are coming to us all.

Just look around the world - shortages and disputes all over:

  • Water shortages in the west and south of the US (California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada - with tap water in some states unsafe to drink and reservoirs at scarily low levels), yet the east and north (and Canada) have plenty of water;
  • Water shortages in Mexico, the source of a long running dispute with the USA over how much water is abstracted from the Colorado river before it crosses the border into Mexico;
  • Water shortages all over Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the UK and even Switzerland) with water levels in rivers at historically low levels;
  • Water shortages and droughts in much of Africa (even in South Africa);
  • A major dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the building of a new dam on the Nile;
  • Water shortages in many middle-eastern nations, with a long-running dispute between the Palestinians and Jordan on one side, and Israel on the other, about how much water Israel takes from the river Jordan;
  • Israel has abstracted so much ground water (mainly for agricultural irrigation) that it has become salty due to seepage from the sea;
  • Low water levels in the Caspian and Aral seas, caused by abstracting too much water for agriculture over decades;
  • A long list of historically arid nations, with matters now being made worse by climate change.

The causes of these water shortages are many:

  • Growing crops that require too much water in unsuitable areas (e.g. almonds in California);
  • The lack of national water grids in virtually all nations, so that water from wetter areas cannot be moved to more arid zones;
  • Global warming and climate change;
  • Lack of water conservation efforts and investment;
  • Leaking water mains in most countries;
  • Inappropriate water-hungry lawns in many arid areas of the USA;
  • Badly designed household hot water systems all across the USA, meaning that showers are left running for 5 minutes to allow the water temperature to stabilise before people can shower;
  • Abstraction of ground water during drier months, without replenishing the ground water during wetter months.

Most of these causes are not being addressed, and some will get worse over time. Some, however, could be addressed, for example:

  • Water could be piped from the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers to the arid parts of the USA, although this would not be cheap;
  • In the UK, a national water grid could pump water from Kielder dam and some Scottish lochs to the south of England, but again, not cheaply;
  • Domestic hot water systems in the USA could be improved, and thermostatic shower controls installed.

So, we have shortages of water in many places, in many cases with neighbouring areas/nations having more than sufficient water. How bad do you think it will have to get before people are prepared to fight to have drinking, washing and irrigation water? In Mongolia shepherds are already fighting over water for their livestock. What if Mexico decided to bomb Hoover Dam to get the Colorado river flowing properly? What if Egypt invaded Ethiopia to increase the flow in the Nile? What kind of pressure might the USA exert on Canada to get them to share their water? None of these scenarios are inconceivable; once the need is dire enough, they will happen.

The water wars are coming.