Wars over water?

The wars of the future will be fought over water.

Do you know this Quote of the Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros-Gahli?

This quote was said in 1960. This prediction turned out to be false. In the last 40 years there have been no wars over water. Let’s take a look at our global situation. Right now, there are no wars over water. But is there potential for such a war in the future?

Our planet is called the blue planet and is covered in water. So why should we fight over it? The answer is simple: because only 3% is freshwater. All over the world water is an important resource and is used in many different ways, for example, in agriculture (69%). Many plants need to be watered artificially.  Industry and energy production also use water (19%) and our population is growing, so the demand for water is increasing. Climate change too, is a major cause for the worldwide water shortage. About 3 billion people live in areas with a lack of water. When dams are build it creates tension, destroys the nature and people have to move. On earth there are some countries, which are in conflict because of water, but none of them are armed conflicts. For example, Turkey built a dam to control the water level of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris,  affecting its neighbouring countries Iraq and Syria. Or another example, Ethiopia has built a huge dam to operate a hydroelectric power station which requires 5000 Megawatts of power, but this affects the citizens of Egypt, because Egypt uses water from the Nile for their agriculture. A deficient water supply would cause difficulties regarding the production of Egypt’s crops. Egypt announced, that if their citizens have a bad harvest or not enough food to survive because of a lack of water, and Ethiopia refuses to open the dam, then they would declare war in order to save themselves. But there are no signs that Egypt will declare war because both are trying to find a solution. But there are many other factors, that determine whether a war breaks out. Its alway a great effort  and involves many disadvantages for the people, economy and infrastructure of the affected countries. During my research, I found a quote from a strategist of the Israeli army. “For the price of a week of war you can build 5 desalination plants” It highlights the unlikelihood of a water war breaking out. That’s a bit reassuring but doesn’t rule out war. 

Climate change will make a sufficient water supply more difficult for some countries. That’s for sure and it will change our life. Heatwaves and droughts can exacerbate existing conflicts between population groups and states, or create new ones. However, changing climate conditions do not automatically lead to a higher risk of conflict, because conflicts are also influenced by social and political factors, emphasises Adelphi, the Berlin consulting institute.

I don’t think that there will be any wars only over water in the next 20 years. But we shouldn’t completely rule out water wars, because there is potential for this type of war in some countries and climate change will destroy our planet.




Paál, Gábor, (2022):Werden Kriege um Wasser geführt?,URL:https://www.swr.de/wissen/1000-antworten/werden-kriege-um-wasser-gefuehrt-100.html (28.11.2022)

Stutte, Harald, (2022):Krieg um Wasser: Wenn jeder Tropfen zum Konfliktgrund wird, URL: https://www.rnd.de/panorama/duerre-und-wasserknappheit-wird-es-bald-kriege-um-wasser-geben-YQLKOVAU7BB4RCOXZXQ2PNBD5A.html (28.11.2022)

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