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Water in war: Understanding the impacts of armed conflict on water resources and their management

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Abstract Armed conflict has the potential to disrupt water systems that are crucial to environmental and human wellbeing. Yet there is no comprehensive overview of scientific evidence on the impact of armed conflicts on water resources and their management. This paper assesses the relevant scientific evidence through a systematic literature review. We discern conceptual, empirical, and methodological approaches adopted in the reviewed publications and synthesize the overarching research results. Common research topics across the body of literature include the role of water resources in armed conflicts, either as a casualty or as a weapon used by conflict parties, and the implications of armed conflict on water resources management, such as basic service provision and water governance. The analysis also pinpoints the research field's focus on empirical studies based on a small number of cases, and highlights a lack of conceptual engagement with the notion of armed conflict. Future research on water resources and their management in conflict settings needs to be more transparent on conceptual frameworks and assumptions to facilitate knowledge integration across different studies. This article is categorized under: Planning Water > Engineering Water Water Governance > Human Water
Search and screening process applied to identify all relevant publications to be included in the systematic review. The search query used in the database searches was “water AND conflict AND (‘violen*’ OR ‘armed’ OR ‘acute’ OR ‘protracted’),” with a cut‐off date on April 30, 2019
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Number of publications on water in conflict‐affected settings that did (black) or did not (gray) include fieldwork, per research design category. Fieldwork is understood as research which includes the physical act of visiting “the field” to collect data. The category “Review” includes both scientific literature reviews and reviews of non‐scientific Documents that are not related to a specific case, for example, international law review papers
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Types of water resources investigated in publications on water in conflict‐affected settings. Multiple mentions are possible where publications discuss different types of water resources, with the exception of the category “not specified”
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Number of publications on water in conflict‐affected settings that cover one country (black), multiple countries (dark gray) or the whole world (light gray), per units of analysis applied in the respective study
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Geographic distribution of studies on water in conflict‐affected settings per country across the world (a) and in the Levant (b). Publications investigating multiple countries are counted as one study on each country
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Number of publications on water in conflict‐affected settings per year, as per the research dataset. Publications for 2019 only include publications up until the cut‐off date at the end of April 2019
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