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Water Conflicts and the Future. What are the possible conflicts and solutions to increasing demands for water? This section looks at 4 themes: Trends in water demand globally and locally Water players Responses to need to increasing water supply and the issues these strategies raise

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Water Conflicts and the Future

What are the possible conflicts and solutions to increasing demands for water?

This section looks at 4 themes:

Trends in water demand globally and locally

Water players

Responses to need to increasing water supply and the issues these strategies raise

The role of technology in water supply

why is there so much uncertainty about future water demand and supply
Why is there so much uncertainty about future water demand and supply?
  • One third of the world’s population is already short of water, and this situation will get worse as agricultural and industrial development look set to push global water demand to over 5,235km3 by 2025.
  • See graph p 48 Pearson
  •  Future predictions are uncertain due to factors such as economic growth or depression?, slowing of population growth?, political and religious shocks affecting demography and economics and CLIMATE CHANGE
  • Q - Explain why climate change might lead to problems of water scarcity in some countries.
climate change and water
Climate change and water
  • Inequalities in access to water
  • Health will vary
  • Food and other resources may be harder to access
  • Inland Africans will be remaining with less water as it moves to coastal areas
  • Migration and refugees
  • W Asia, Middle East, Central America, Mediterranean and Amazon to be hit hardest
present and potential water conflict hotspots
Present and potential water conflict hotspots

Insert Figure 2.11 page 47


Iraq + Syria concerns that Turkey’s GAP project will divert their water

  • As water supply decreases, tensions will increase as different players try to access common water supplies
  • Many conflicts are transboundary in nature, either between states or countries


Colorado: disputes between the 7 US states and Mexico it flows through. The river is so overused, that it no longer reaches the sea!.

90% abstracted before reaches Mexico

The Aral Sea, an inland drainage basin, once the world’s 4th largest inland lake has shrunk sine the 1950s after the 2 rivers feeding it: the Amu Dayra and Syr Darya were diverted for irrigation.

By 2007 the sea was 10% of original volume and split into 2 lakes. The ex soviet states are in conflict: Uzbekistan , Turkmenistan and Kazakstan.

Lake Chad





La Plata


Note: although there have been rising tensions globally, many areas demonstrate effective management to diffuse the situation and create more equitable and sustainable demand-supply balance, such as the Mekong River Committee,& the Nile River Initiative

Nile hotly disputed between Ethiopia and Sudan ,who control its headwaters, and Egypt .

3 water conflicts and the future 3 scenarios
3. Water conflicts and the future...3 scenarios:

From: 2002 International Food Policy and Research Institute future models


The most worrying scenario is ‘Water Crisis’ –

explain what might lead to this situation.

water players and decision makers
Water Players and decision makers
  • Different players have conflicting views on water insecurity
  • One player may have quite complex views; most Governments will have departments wanting conservation as opposed to development
  • You need to identify the ‘stakeholders’ in any particular case study, and then the role of the ‘gatekeepers’ who wield power. The next slide shows a classification of players
  • Economic
  • International: World Bank & IMF
  • TNCs and developers
  • Businesses and users
  • Political: water is a human need
  • International organisations e.g. UN
  • Government
  • Regional & local councils
  • Lobbyists & pressure groups

Photograph of Aral Sea with grounded tanker

  • Environmental
  • Conservationists
  • Scientists & planners
  • Social: water is a human right
  • Individuals
  • Residents
  • Consumers land owners, health officials, NGOs like Water Aid
un world water days trying to be more sustainable
UN World Water Days- trying to be more sustainable?
  • The importance of water in managing global issues is shown by the profile given to it by the UN:
  • It declared 2005 to 2015 as the International Decade for Action, "Water for Life”.
  • Every year on March 22nd the UN gives a theme to publicise current issues. 2010 World Water Day: dedicated to the theme of water quality.
  • Such global action is rooted in the iconic Earth Summit on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and the creation of Agenda21 (the Blueprint for planet management at global scale)and Local Agenda 21( global problems, local action)

UN MDG TARGET set in 2000: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

The world is ahead of schedule in meeting the 2015 drinking water target.

Yet a number of countries face an ‘uphill battle’: 884 million people still rely on unimproved water sources for their drinking, cooking, bathing and other domestic activities.

Of these, almost 85 % (746 million people) live in rural areas.

1990 to 2006, 1.1 billion people in the developing world received access to toilets, latrines and other forms of improved sanitation.

But this leaves 1.4 billion people still needing such facilities if the 2015 target is to be met.

Previous Themes for World Water Days

  • 2013 Water cooperation
  • 2012 Water and food security
  • 2011 Water for cities
  • 2010 Water quality
  • 2009 Transboundary water
  • 2008 Sanitation
  • 2007 Coping with water scarcity
  • 2006 Water and Culture
  • 2005 Water for Life
  • 2004: Water and Disasters
  • 2003: Water for the Future
  • 2002: Water for Development
  • 2001: Water and Health
responses management strategies
Responses: Management strategies

Strategies rely on technology?

  • Water conflicts can be managed in a range of different ways
  • There is a spectrum of different management strategies
  • Some are sustainable as they balance ecological and human needs

What is Sustainability? Millennium Ecosystem Assessment definition:

A characteristic or state whereby the needs of the present and local population can be met without compromising the ability of future generations or populations in other locations to meet their needs.

Present policies

Driven by short term economic + political concerns

Often do not include science and effective technology

  • Obstacles to sustainable management
  • Climate change uncertainty and effects
  • Natural variability of water
  • Pressures caused by human activities and rapid growth of transition economies towards a consumerist society
  • Increased water demands
  • Gross inefficiencies in use
  • Poor existing quality of supply across huge areas of world
  • Funding
  • Access to appropriate technology

Future policies?

Longer term?

Need more research, information and monitoring especially on aquifers in developing countries

More partnerships?

More community involvement?

More accountable?

hard management
Hard management
  • Managing future water supplies will require action at a variety of levels, ranging from large –scale projects funded by governments and agencies such as the World Bank down to changing consumers’ attitudes to water use at a local level.

Traditional ‘hard’ engineering

  • Dams; currently 845000 of which 5000 classed as megadams. The aim is to increase natural storage capacity by artificial reservoirs. Rivers most at risk at present: Yangtze, Amazon, Danube and many in the Himalayas
  • Channels, seen in most arid/semi arid countries whatever their economic status, egJonglei Canal on Nile
  • Pipelines eg Australia and California Aqueduct and snowy Mountains scheme Australia
  • Desalination plants eg in Middle East
  • Recharging schemes for depleted aquifers, eg North London Artificial recharge Scheme and Long Island New York
  • Newer hard technologies
  • Tankers to transport water egTurkey to Israel
  • Osmosis membranes filtering salt from brackish water eg Israel (the Ashkelon plant produces 15% of domestic demand). Also in California, Spain and China
  • Fertigation: fertilser and water drip feeding of crops, as in Israel
desalinisation technological fix
Desalinisation – Technological Fix?
  • This is the removal of salt from water
  • Cost lots, but as water scarcity increases many countries e.g Israel are turning to this
  • 2 methods either filtering ( Saudi Arabia) or reverse osmosis( Israel, Spain and Australia)
  • Have ecological impacts due to concentrated brine in the by product

What else does Technology do to solve the water crisis?


Softer more environmentally and ethically responsible approaches

  • Water conservation eg targeted drip irrigation on plants in Ethiopia, includes water harvesting
  • Water restoration eg Northern Aral Sea, and on smaller scale river Colne in UK
  • Integrated drainage basin management , especially if bottom up and community involved.
  • The 4 Rs: iean attitudinal fix: Reduce, Respect, Reuse, Renew.....

Drip Irrigation

Example – Ogallala Aquifer, USA

  • 16 wireless infrared sensors have been put in field – measure crop temperature to see if they need water. If they reach a certain temperature they turn on automatically.
  • Also measure daily evapotanspiration rates, post them on the internet so farmers can adjust irrigation rates
  • Grow wheat another crops that don’t need water
  • Allow some field to return to grasslands – make money from hunting, ecotourism and ‘dude ranches’
  • Problem is that government gives higher subsides for crop fields rather than grassland filed, maybe needs to change
sustainable settlements
Sustainable Settlements


Water efficient—Most rain water falling on the site is collected and reused. Appliances are chosen to be water-efficient and use recycled water when possible.

Dongtan, China

2 water systems. Clean and grey water

low tech solutions to water a case study
Low tech solutions to water : a case study

The problem: The River WAKAL area of Rajasthan in NW India is one of the driest and poorest areas in India. Subsistence agriculture dominates.

96% of rainfall is from the 3-4 month monsoon (late June through September.) and the traditional methods of using groundwater and conserving surface water are falling short of demands

  • Water management often focuses on large scale, technologically advanced mega-projects
  • These often have complex costs and benefits
  • Water conservation and restoration of supply have a role
  • Small scale, bottom-up schemes are likely to be important in the developing world
  • However, unless duplicated on large scale may be ineffective for longer term economic growth
  • A solution? Basic technology and information is channelled through the NGO: GLOWS( global water for sustainability project) a partnership between World Vision India and Florida International University.
  • Methods:
  • 1. Increasing simple low tech appropriate and intermediate solutions to increase storage:
  • Increased rainwater harvesting
  • Improved storage system at a family scale: Taankas: 3 m in diameter , 3-4 m deep, most below land level with a side opening to allow surface flow in. They store about 20,000litres, and once full provide water for a family until next monsoon.
  • 2. Using colourful drama performed by trained locals to villagers to illustrate the advantages of working cooperatively with other families and villages to reduce desertification and pollution of ground water by since aquifers are shared-if an unseen resource! (see photograph)

Changes: Traditional low tech methods of water conservation.: stone dams, Persian water wheels and tube wells- but cannot cope with increased demand and increased droughts

restoring the aral sea
Restoring the Aral Sea

Watch the 2 news clips on the restoration

Use this information and that in the text book to answer :

  • How have they helped to restore the sea ( include the role of key players)

2. What have been in the impacts of these plans?

what happened river kissimmee
What happened – River Kissimmee
  • Severe flooding on the river in 1940’s meant that this river was channelized to stop this and ease navigation
  • Between 1962 and 1971 the river was replaced with a 90km channel and renamed C 38
  • Also water entering the basin was controlled by storage lakes
impacts it had
Impacts it had
  • Less recharge in Miami’s groundwater aquifers
  • Salinisation of water supplies
  • Less water flow – was 0.42 m per second, now 0.05 m per second
  • 92% loss in birds
  • Eutrophication from nutrients - happened further down stream
restoration what happened
Restoration – what happened
  • 1975 Kissimmee River restoration act passed saying they – work started in 1999, and complete in 2012.
  • 11,000 hectares will be restored to wetland
  • Levees have been removed and meanders restored
  • Some parts of the canal remain to protect settlements
  • Trying to allow the river to return to seasonal flow, but progress is slow

Specific Technologies seen as appropriate /intermediate with less negative externalities

  • Water harvesting of grey water eg Belize
  • Micro dams serving villages eg Nepal
  • Water meters to reduce use eg UK
  • Composting latrines – seen in National Trust properties in UK to Mumbai slums!
domestic usage
Domestic Usage

settlements part 2
Settlements – part 2

So-called dry sanitation technologies, such as that employed in the Gebers Housing Project in Sweden, can save much of this freshwater for other applications. These decentralized systems first separate urine from faeces and then safely recycle each for use as crop fertilizers

  • In Stigomta, Sweden, they hold an annual 'Pee Outside Day' which saves 50 percent of the water normally used to flush a toilet.
  • 17th April in US have pee outside day, started in Atlanta in 2007
other methods of meeting water shortages
Other Methods of meeting water shortages
  • 1970’s considered the idea of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to the Middle East
  • 2006 Thames water considered bring them from Greenland
  • Use transparent bottles, as 6 hours sunlight will destroy microorganisms and make it safe to drink