Science 3 min read

New Study Reveals Potential Locations for Future Water Conflicts

Alexandr Vorobev /

Alexandr Vorobev /

Researchers have unveiled a map showing all the global hotspots for potential water conflicts in the next 50 to 100 years.

A team of scientists from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center has released a study on all possible areas that might suffer from water conflicts in the near future. According to the researchers, these global hotspots will be susceptible to ‘hydro-political issues‘ in the next 50 to 100 years as climate change further fuels depletion of water resources.

In their study, the researchers said that the increasing effects of climate change coupled with the seemingly unstoppable growth in population would result in social unrest and instability in places where supplies of fresh water are scarce. This will also be the case in areas where bordering nations have to share and manage the commodity.

With the aid of a new machine learning method, the JRC researchers identified the risk areas by investigating the factors and pre-conditions that could cause water disputes in shared water bodies.

“The scope of our study is two-fold. First, we wanted to highlight the factors which lead to either political cooperation or tensions in transboundary river basins. And second, we wanted to map and monitor the likelihood of these kinds of interactions over space and time and under changing socio-economic conditions,” Fabio Farinosi, lead author of the study, explained.

The results of the study suggest that ‘Waterworld’-like conflicts are more likely to occur in areas where water transboundary is present. These areas include lakes, rivers, and basins shared by two or more geopolitical systems. The researchers identified some potential areas of conflict, including the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates, and Colorado rivers.

Areas vulnerable to water conflicts in the future
Areas vulnerable to water conflicts in the future | European Commission’s Joint Research Center

“Competition over limited water resources is one of the main concerns for the coming decades. Although water issues alone have not been the sole trigger for warfare in the past, tensions over freshwater management and use represent one of the main concerns in political relations between riparian states and may exacerbate existing tensions, increase regional instability and social unrest,” the researchers went on to say.

At the moment, the JRC is in the process of developing a more in-depth analysis of Africa’s largest basins. Their paper titled An innovative approach to the assessment of hydro-political risk: A spatially explicit, data driven indicator of hydro-political issues” has been published in the journal Global Environmental Change.

Could climate change really lead nations to war because of water conflicts?

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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