The Water Conflict Chronology: Water Conflicts over the Centuries and Millennia

Photograph: Circle of Blue


Water, or lack thereof, is often at the frontlines of conflict. By documenting water conflict across history, Dr. Peter Gleick, chief scientist and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, explores the instances where water and violence have gone hand and hand. His water conflict chronology is a fascinating river throughout history and was just updated. In our latest podcast, Dr. Gleick tells us about some of the lessons learned and highlights from this water conflict chronology, and explores what kind of trends have emerged, and what we can expect in the future.


Here’s the transcript of the video interview:

“I’m Peter Gleick from the Pacific Institute in California, global water think tank. We tackle a wide range of global water issues, including violent conflict over water. We maintain the most comprehensive database on water conflict chronology of violence over water going back many thousands of years. We’ve just finished the 2016, early 2017 additions to that database.

The bad news is the conflicts over water are growing. We’re seeing more and more of them around the world, we see fights over access to fresh water. Riots and social unrest over the failure to provide safe water in many communities around the world.

We’ve seen a growing number of attacks on water systems especially most recently in the Middle East, in Yemen and Syria and Iraq. We’ve also seen the use of water there as a weapon, where one side or another has used water to deprive communities of access to water use or to flood downstream communities on the Tigris and Euphrates River.

Unfortunately we’ve seen the same kind of things in the Ukraine, where Russia and the Ukraine are fighting. We’ve seen intentional attacks on water systems that have deprived millions of people of access to water. These kinds of violent incidences, these kinds of challenges, associated with fresh water resources are unfortunately growing, not shrinking and the world community has failed to address them adequately.

It’s a reflection I think of the broader issues of the unsustainable way we deal with our water challenges.”


To listen to the full interview and read the transcript click here.