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Conflict and cooperation in the water‐security nexus: a global comparative analysis of river basins under climate change

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Adequate fresh water availability is an important factor for human security in many parts of the world. In transboundary river basins, decreased water supply due to local environmental change and global climate change and increased water demand due to growing populations and continued economic development can aggravate water scarcity. Contrary to the claim that water scarcity may result in an increased risk of armed conflict, there is no simple relationship between freshwater availability and violent conflict. Other crucial factors need to be taken into consideration that also directly influence resource availability and personal human well‐being. In this review, we assess the scientific literature on conflict and cooperation in transboundary river systems. Most international river basins are already jointly managed by the riparians, but successful management in times of climate change necessitates the inclusion of more factors besides mere allocation schemes. On the basis of a substantial body of literature on the management of transboundary watersheds, an analytical framework of the water‐security nexus is developed that integrates the physical and socioeconomic pathways connecting water availability with conflict or cooperation. This framework is subsequently applied to two transboundary river basins—the Nile River and the Syr Darya/Amu Darya—as they represent two world regions that could become future water hot spots. An improved understanding of the developments leading to water conflicts and their interaction can help to successfully reduce the risk of water conflicts in these regions and to move toward increased cooperation among the riparians of transboundary river systems. WIREs Water 2016, 3:495–515. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1151 This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change Human Water > Water Governance
Baseline water stress in the world's transboundary river systems based on data from Aqueduct Global Maps. Baseline water stress is a measure relating total water withdrawal in a given area to total available blue water.
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Integrative conceptual framework of the water‐security‐conflict nexus.
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Illustration of baseline water stress in river basins and country‐based armed conflicts since 1978 in Central, South and Southeast Asia. Note that the simultaneous occurrence of water stress and conflict in the same location does not imply a causal relationship between the two phenomena.
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Illustration of baseline water stress in river basins and armed conflict events since 1978 in Africa and the Middle East, indicating areas that are affected by water stress and/or conflict stress. Georeferenced conflict events in Africa are shown in dots; country‐based armed conflicts in the Middle East are represented by shadings. Note that the simultaneous occurrence of water stress and conflict in the same location does not imply a causal relationship between the two phenomena.
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Science of Water > Water and Environmental Change
Human Water > Water Governance
Engineering Water > Planning Water

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