Its All Good…or is it?  Water wars in the 21st Century?

Dr. Greg Allgood probably has the best last name in the entire “Goodsphere”.  He’s the head of P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program and he regularly writes about his travels to remote villages where people use PUR water packets to purify their base water supply.  I don’t often get choked up when reading a blog, but as I was going through Notes from the Front Line, I found myself a bit teary eyed while reading the struggles of people in small villages simply trying to quench their thirst without getting an awful case of diarrhea or even a life threatening disease.

As P&G & others put together strong efforts to address the serious issue of non-treated water, I’m wondering tonight about how quickly the (lack of) water in dry regions around the world will escalate into conflict.  Will the combined threats of global warming, unfettered population growth and wasteful usage combine to create a serious situation for global security sometime this century?  What else needs to be done to stem the threat of Global water war outbreaks?

Water Wars?

There is a lot of debate around the potential for water wars.  Most experts agree that (lack of) water can be a source of state conflict, but whether or not the single water issue leads to full blown war is up for debate.  Seed magazine recently assembled a great list of experts to debate the topic, and they do better justice to the topic than I ever will.  If you are interested in the Chronology of water wars dating back to the days of Noah, check out worldwater.org.

So, how can risks of water war be mitigated this century?  Peter Gleick from worldwater.org offers a few ideas:

  • Meet water needs:  By meeting basic human needs for water, we can ensure, if not absolute justice, at least some semblance of equity and reduce the potential for conflict
  • Drive water diplomacy: By arming diplomats with a better understanding of the connections between water and conflict, they’ll be better prepared to negotiate.  In addition, we should ensure UN peacekeeping operations are prepared for water conflict

As CSDW partners, along with other organizations, commit to getting their hands dirty & meeting some basic water needs by providing purification solutions over the next few years, strong water diplomacy will definitely be needed across the arid regions & in water hot spots to reduce the potential for conflict.

I’ve seen a lot of recent posts around the bottled vs tap water debate recently in sustainability circles…while that is definitely a valid conversation to have for those of us with ample water (I even live 1 hour from the venerable water town of Evian in Switzerland) when we consider the prospect of actual water wars, the bottled vs tap debate almost becomes less significant.

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