09 May 2017

Water, climate and conflict: security risks on the increase?

Water plays a critical role in development strategies at global, regional, national and local levels. Many aspects of water can threaten human security, for example floods from rivers or the sea as well as water pollution, but water scarcity is regarded as the most important water issue in relation to political tension and conflict.

In situations where water has become scarce, competition over water (and the remaining fertile land) has the potential to spark tensions between users at levels ranging from local communities up to international river basins. Water and climate conditions in the world are expected to change dramatically due to population growth, further economic development and climate change. It is projected that these developments will lead to increased water stress affecting conflict risks at local, national and river-basin levels.

Acknowledging the complexity of the interaction between the biophysical environment, human security and political conflict, this briefing note focuses on their possible interrelationships, considering also future climate change and socialeconomic developments.