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Global Warming and Water Management

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  1. Global Warming and Water Management Can Cooperation help us avoid conflict over water scarcity?

  2. The Problem • Global warming will increase the uncertainties surrounding our water supply through more erratic rainfall, loss of snowmelt runoff, etc. Specific effects will vary by region. • Most damaging to systems that are already stressed (IPCC reports that 1.7 billion people live in water stressed countries). • So why does this matter? • People will fight over it.

  3. The Problem: Legal/Political Conflict • Disputes in the developed world- • Waning Colorado River Water • Southeastern Drought • Army Corps of Engineers control how much water is released from Reservoirs in Georgia downstream to Florida and Alabama • Must take into account interests of each state (Georgia-municipal water/Florida-sportfishing stocks, oyster industry, endangered species etc). • Florida and Georgia both seeking legal action, Alabama has no water management plan despite two years of drought!

  4. The Problem: Legal/Political Conflict (2) • The potential for reduced water supply to fast-growing Atlanta caused Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to lead a large group in a prayer for rain last Tuesday (Nov. 13).

  5. The Problem: Violent Conflict • In and among undeveloped countries conflict supposedly will be much worse- Water Wars!! • Nordas and Gleditsch offer numerous alarmists quotes: • Dept. of Defense (Randall and Schwartz 2003) • UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon 2007 • Kevin Noone Director of Intern. Geosphere-Biosphere Program • IPCC, more restrained but still alarmist and unscientific

  6. The Problem: Violent Conflict (2) • What are the causal pathways? • Scarcity directly causes conflict, either within or between states. • Demand induced via population growth • Supply induced (either because of environmental change or substandard infrastructure) • Distributional-scarcity is greater for some groups • Climate changed induced migration may cause conflict in host communities • We have a word for such reasoning….

  7. Malthusian! Humans are prisoners of their environments… Kantian! Humans can cooperate. Institutions help. The Problem: Violent Conflict (3)

  8. Motivating Questions • Is violent conflict over water inevitable? To what extent are the Malthusians right? • Is it adaptation to water scarcity possible without violence? How do we currently adapt to scarcity? To what extent are the Kantians right?

  9. How probable is violent conflict? • Does scarcity directly lead to civil war? – Not really. • Raleigh and Urdal (2007): test a disaggregated model covering all countries, water scarcity matters but not that much compared to demographic, economic, and political variables. • What about just Africa though?

  10. How probable is violent conflict? (2) • Hendrix and Glaser (2007)

  11. How probable is violent conflict? (3) • Meier Bond and Bond (2007): precipitation variability doesn’t lead to increased cattle raids in the horn of africa. • Will migration cause civil conflict? • Maybe (Reuveny 2007): counts 38 documented episodes of environment-induced migration, finds conflict results in 19 cases while the other 19 were peaceful. • Gleditsch and Salehyan (2007): refugees are more likely to spread conflict than cause it. • What about interstate war?

  12. How probable is violent conflict? (4) • Evidence from Shared River Basins • Gleditsch et al (2006)

  13. How probable is violent conflict? (5) • Yoffe, Wolfe, and Giordano (2003)

  14. Summary so far • Conflict is certainly a possible result of climate change induced water scarcity but: • The causal chain between scarcity and conflict is still sketchy, general human misery is much more likely. • Conflict can be averted through successful water management. How does this work?

  15. The Solution? What is water management? • Demand (restrict usage) and supply (build infrastructure) side regulations dealing with: • Municipal water supply • Irrigation • Industrial • Hydropower • Navigation • Pollution Control • Flood Management

  16. The Solution? (2) • As the IPCC notes (Ch. 4.6.4): “having the ability to adapt to change is not the same as actually adapting to change.” • So why haven’t management tools been widely implemented? • IPCC says (4.8.3)- we need more knowledge! • Better monitoring data on supply and usage, better understanding of patterns of variability, better management techniques and decision criteria… • But…Where’s the politics?

  17. The Solution? (3) • The ability for relevant political actors to cooperate is critical for effective water management. Why? • Management is costly, who will bear the costs? How will losers be compensated? • Management choices are circumscribed by existing institutions

  18. Example of Water Institutions-CA • “Water is the life-blood of Southern California” –MWD 1931. • Local governments and water districts controlled water management pre-1920. • Metropolitan Water District is a cooperative of 26 member agencies • 14 cities, 11 municipal water districts, and the countywide San Diego Water authority • Supplies 60 percent of the water used in Urban Southern California.

  19. Metropolitan Water District • MWD’s early history is that of a water importer: • In late 1920s, MWD financed and built 242 mile Colorado River Aqueduct. • In 1970s imported water from Northern CA via State Water Project’s Aqueduct system. • How has MWD adapted to increasing water scarcity?

  20. Increasing Scarcity of Colorado River Water for CA • California’s allocation is 4.4 MAF per year, plus half of any surplus. Arizona v. CA 1963. • Surplus allocation allowed CA to consume 20% more than its basic allotment. • Reduced streamflow cut surpluses, upper basin states, Arizona, and Mexico now using most of their allocation. • In 2002, Interior department limited CA to 4.4 MAF by declaring the end of surplus conditions.

  21. MWD’s Reaction • Switch from water importation to in-state transfers from N. CA, conservation, storage, and rural to urban water transfers. • Required abandoning its traditional alliance with agribusiness. • MWD faces opposition everywhere • Peripheral Canal Defeated in 1982 by Central valley interests and Environmentalists • Calfed Bay-Delta Program only partially implemented by 2002 Proposition 50.

  22. How is water conflict resolved in the U.S.? • Institutional bargaining amongst every level and branch of government • Increasing scarcity merely exacerbates ongoing conflicts • The federal government and the court system arbitrate • Expertise aggregated into water agencies like MWD. • Conflicts never turn violent, though there are always losers (i.e. Mexico).

  23. Questions for Discussion • Given the lack of any water infrastructure and management in much of the developing world, can management be improved? Is migration a forgone conclusion? • Is international water aid a realistic possibility?