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Central Asia’s ’Water Wars” Are Heating Up

Central Asia’s ’Water Wars” Are Heating Up

  • Access to water has been a point of conflict in Central Asia for years.
  • Environmental changes have raised temperatures in Central Asia faster than the global average.
  • While the upstream Kyrgyzstanis and Tajikistanis have plenty of water, Uzbekistan wholly relies on a steady supply of water for its food security.

On November 3, Uzbekistani Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov and his Kyrgyzstani counterpart Jeenbek Kulubaev signed a bilateral deal in Bishkek, under which Kyrgyzstan agreed to cede to Tashkent the territory surrounding the Kempir-Abad Reservoir, covering 4,485 hectares, in exchange for over 19,000 hectares elsewhere (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 3). The deal effectively grants Uzbekistan control over the reservoir, a burning issue that has contributed to rising tensions between the two Central Asian neighbors (Eurasianet.org, November 17). On November 17, the Kyrgyzstani parliament approved a contentious border deal, and on November 29, Kyrgyzstani President Sadyr Japarov ratified the agreement, allowing for joint management of the reservoir (Asia Plus, November 29).

Central Asia has been historically plagued by tension over access to water resources. Even the administrative divisions under the Soviet Union constantly fought over the allocation of water and pastures (Tnu.tj, May 6, 2021). In this, with the introduction of private land ownership in Kyrgyzstan, some rented Tajikistani pastures have declared the property of Kyrgyzstani citizens. Although multiple factors (e.g., strategic, political and ethnic) contribute to the escalation of border tensions among the Central Asian neighbors, the management of water resources has been a perennial issue, frequently sparking conflict. Over the past decade, more than 150 conflicts have occurred on the shared Kyrgyzstani-Tajikistani borders, with victims on both sides (Cabar.asia, February 15, 2021). In September 2022, 24 Kyrgyzstanis died as a result of the escalation of armed conflict on the border (Novosti.kg, September 17)…

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The Growing Threat of Water Wars

ghosh15_Christopher FurlongGetty Images_africagirldroughtwater

The Growing Threat of Water Wars

In 2015, United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include an imperative to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” Yet, in the last four years, matters have deteriorated significantly.

NEW DELHI – The dangers of environmental pollution receive a lot of attention nowadays, particularly in the developing world, and with good reason. Air quality indices are dismal and worsening in many places, with India, in particular, facing an acute public-health emergency. But as serious as the pollution problem is, it must not be allowed to obscure another incipient environmental catastrophe, and potential source of future conflict: lack of access to clean water.

We may live on a “blue planet,” but less than 3% of all of our water is fresh, and much of it is inaccessible (for example, because it is locked in glaciers). Since 1960, the amount of available fresh water per capita has declined by more than half, leaving over 40% of the world’s population facing water stress. By 2030, demand for fresh water will exceed supply by an estimated 40%.

With nearly two-thirds of fresh water coming from rivers and lakes that cross national borders, intensifying water stress fuels a vicious circle, in which countries compete for supplies, leading to greater stress and more competition. Today, hundreds of international water agreements are coming under pressure.

China, India, and Bangladesh are locked in a dispute over the Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, with China and India actively constructing dams that have raised fears of water diversion. India’s government has used water-flow diversion to punish Pakistan for terrorist attacks. Dam-building on the Nile by Ethiopia has raised the ire of downstream Egypt.

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Water Wars Loom: UN Warns 5 Billion People Will Face Civilizational Threat By 2050

While residents of Cape Town, South Africa, brace for Day Zero (the day that the city of 4 million’s municipal water supply will be cut off for most households and businesses in order to preserve water after a severe drought that has emptied reservoirs), they are far from alone.

As MarketWatch’s Ciar Linnane notes, experts say this dystopian scene could be played out in other major cities in the coming years, as demand for water continues to increase with population growth and as climate change makes already-dry regions still dryer.

More than 5 billion people could suffer water shortages by 2050 due to climate change, increased demand and polluted supplies, according to a UN report on the state of the world’s water.

As The Guardian reports, the comprehensive annual study warns of conflict and civilisational threats unless actions are taken to reduce the stress on rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands and reservoirs.

Demand for water is projected to rise fastest in developing countries. Meanwhile, climate change will put an added stress on supplies because it will make wet regions wetter and dry regions drier.

“For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management. In doing so, it has often brushed aside traditional and indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches,” says Gilbert Houngbo, the chair of UN Water, in the preface of the 100-page assessment.

“In the face of accelerated consumption, increasing environmental degradation and the multi-faceted impacts of climate change, we clearly need new ways of manage competing demands on our freshwater resources.”

By 2050, the report predicts, between 4.8 billion and 5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today, while the number of people at risk of floods will increase to 1.6 billion, from 1.2 billion.

Water quality is also deteriorating.

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Water Wars Coming To California? Is The Drought Really Over?

Water Wars Coming To California? Is The Drought Really Over?

Authored by Capt. William E. Simpson II – USMM Ret.,

In California, the poor growth and development policies that have resulted from a lack of vision have led-to and are continuing to lead Californians down a path of unsustainable growth and a widening gap between the demand and availability of critical resources, especially water.

This gargantuan problem is augmented by a growing financial crises in California as evidenced by an out of control and growing debt problem. All the while, many elected officials in the State along with Governor Jerry Brown are thumbing their noses at the Fed and losing Federal funding for cities that obstinately insist on violating long-established immigration laws. Of course this too is not helpful to the growing State debt, which elected officials will certainly cast-off onto the weakening shoulders of taxpayers using a combination of direct tax increases and other legislative and regulatory ploys that also amount to taxes and less money in the pockets of the People.

The term ‘drought’ has been used in reference to the severe water shortages that California is experiencing. But what is the real culprit or causation of the growing water shortage? Is drought caused by a lack of precipitation as most people believe? Or is the shortfall of water availability due to some other principal factor, such as water-use outstripping supply?

The recent record precipitation in California during the winter of 2016-2017 has certainly soaked the landscape, replenishing many of California’s reservoirs and in the process giving Californians the impression that the drought is over. But that is a misconception according to sources provided herein.


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California Water Wars Escalate: State Changes Law, Orders Farmers To Stop Pumping

California Water Wars Escalate: State Changes Law, Orders Farmers To Stop Pumping

“In the water world, the pre-1914 rights were considered to be gold,” exclaimed one water attorney, but as AP reports, it appears that ‘gold’ is being tested as California water regulators flexed their muscles by ordering a group of farmers to stop pumping from a branch of the San Joaquin River amid an escalating battle over how much power the state has to protect waterways that are drying up in the drought. As usual, governments do what they want with one almond farmer raging “I’ve made investments as a farmer based on the rule of law…Now, somebody’s changing the law that we depend on.” This is not abiout toi get any better as NBCNews reports, this drought is of historic proportions – the worst in over 100 years.

The current drought has averaged a reading of -3.67 over the last three years, nearly twice as bad as the second-driest stretch since 1900, which occurred in 1959.


Other studies using PDSI data drawn from tree-ring observations reaching even further back in time reveal similar findings. One such study from University of Minnesota and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researchers showed the current drought is California’s worst in at least 1,200 years.

And as AP reports, regulatords are changing the laws to address the problems…

The State Water Resources Control Board issued the cease and desist order Thursday against an irrigation district in California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley that it said had failed to obey a previous warning to stop pumping. Hefty fines could follow.

The action against the West Side Irrigation District in Tracy could be the first of many as farmers, cities and corporations dig in to protect water rights that were secured long before people began flooding the West and have remained all but immune from mandatory curtailments.




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Water Wars Crush California Wineries: “Whoever Has The Longest Straw Wins”

Water Wars Crush California Wineries: “Whoever Has The Longest Straw Wins”

Eerily reminiscent of the determinedly evil oil baron from the movie ‘There Will Be Blood’Reuters reports the growing tensions amid California’s drought-stricken wineries are boiling over: “There is way too much demand. I blame a lot of vineyards like other people do… It’s a matter of who has the longest straw at the bottom of the bucket.” No one should worry though, because the government is here to help – with a new water management agency…

Between 1990 and 2014, harvested wine grape acreage in the growing region around Paso Robles nearly quintupled to 37,408 acres, as vintners discovered that the area’s rolling hills, rocky soil and mild climate were perfect for coaxing rich, sultry flavors from red wine grapes. But, as Reuters reports, in the last few years, California’s ongoing drought has hit the region hard, reducing grape yields and depleting the vast aquifer that most of the area’s vineyards and rural residents rely on as their sole source of water other than rain.

Across the region, residential and vineyard wells have gone dry.Those who can afford to – including a number of large wineries and growers – have drilled ever-deeper wells, igniting tensions and leading some to question whether Paso Robles’ burgeoning wine industry is sustainable.

“All of our water is being turned purple and shipped out of here in green glass,” said Cam Berlogar, who delivers water, cuts custom lumber and sells classic truck parts in the Paso Robles-area community of Creston.

“There are a lot of farmers who are going to have to farm with a hell of a lot less water.”

But, spurred by the drought, California Governor Jerry Brown last year signed a package of bills requiring groundwater-dependent areas to establish local water sustainability agencies by 2017. The agencies will then have between three and five years to adopt water management plans, and then another two decades to implement those plans.

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California Water Wars Escalate: Government Orders Massive Supply Cuts To Most Senior Rights Holders

California Water Wars Escalate: Government Orders Massive Supply Cuts To Most Senior Rights Holders

Just two weeks after California’s farmers – with the most senior water rights – offered to cut their own water use by 25% (in an attempt to front-run more draconian government-imposed measures)AP reports that the California government has – just as we predicted – ignored any efforts at self-preservation and ordered the largest cuts on record to farmers holding some of the state’s strongest water rights. While frackers and big energy remain exempt from the restrictions, Caren Trgovcich, chief deputy director of the water board, explains,“we are now at the point where demand in our system is outstripping supply for even the most senior water rights holders.”

With “the whole damn state out of water,” AP reports State water officials told more than a hundred senior rights holders in California’s Sacramento, San Joaquin and delta watersheds to stop pumping from those waterways.

The move by the State Water Resources Control Board marked the first time that the state has forced large numbers of holders of senior-water rights to curtail use. Those rights holders include water districts that serve thousands of farmers and others.

The move shows California is sparing fewer and fewer users in the push to cut back on water using during the state’s four-year drought.

“We are now at the point where demand in our system is outstripping supply for even the most senior water rights holders,” Caren Trgovcich, chief deputy director of the water board.

The order applies to farmers and others whose rights to water were staked more than a century ago. Many farmers holding those senior-water rights contend the state has no authority to order cuts.

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“Mad Max: Fury Road” Is a Resource-Conscious Blockbuster for Our Time

“Mad Max: Fury Road” Is a Resource-Conscious Blockbuster for Our Time

Who ruined Mad Max’s world? The new film isn’t afraid to lay blame — and suggest a way forward.

When the first Mad Max was released back in 1979, the era’s reigning existential threats were nuclear winter and, to a lesser extent, peak oil. Set in a not-too-distant dystopian future and against the harsh backdrop of rural Australia, viewers’ ability to map their own fears onto the screen was crucial to that film’s success.

The film doesn’t just rebuke the greedy.

Although the fears have changed, you could say the same thing about Mad Max: Fury Road, the series’ long-awaited fourth installment. Released this month in the midst of California’s historic drought and increasingly bleak studies about the likelihood of catastrophic climate change, the film plays more on viewers’ anxieties about a carbon bomb than a nuclear one.

Director George Miller’s pitched focus on resources reflects today’s embattled context to a tee. Mad Max is not only a rollicking, white-knuckle action flick on spiked 6-foot wheels. It also carries an important and all-too-timely message, shouted defiantly by no less than an aged, graffiti-scrawling woman wielding a shotgun: “You cannot own a human being!” nor the planet on which they live.

Miller’s eponymous antihero, Max Rockantansky (Tom Hardy), inhabits a parched dystopia created by dual resource crises. Invoking political strategist James Carville, the movie’s opening-by-way-of-background announces, “It’s the oil, stupid,” briefing viewers on the water wars, oil shortage, and subsequent state suppression that jolted humanity into chaos. As the world’s supplies of fossil fuels and water dwindle, its citizens are reduced to a single instinct: survival.

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Water Wars Officially Begin In California

Water Wars Officially Begin In California

A century of government meddling has turned the issue of water rights on its head, and further centralized control of waterways in local, state, and federal governments; and, as Acuweather reports, with the state of California mired in its fourth year of drought and a mandatory 25% reduction in water usage in place, reports of water theft are becoming increasingly common. With a stunning 46% of the state in ‘exceptional’ drought, and forecast to worsen, huge amounts of water are ‘going missing’ from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a state investigation was launched. From illegally tapping into hydrants in order to fill up tanks to directly pumping from public canals, California continues toformulate new strategies to preserve as much water as possible and fight the new water wars that are emerging.

Homeowners in Modesto, California, were fined $1,500, as Accuweather reporrs, for allegedly taking water from a canal. In another instance, thieves in the town of North San Juan stole hundreds of gallons of water from a fire department tank.

In Madera County, District Attorney David Linn has instituted a water crime task force to combat the growing trend of water theft occurring throughout the state and to protect rightful property owners from having their valuable water stolen.

The task force will combat agriculture crime through education by instructing farmers how to prevent crime before it occurs, Linn said in a news release back in March.

“Since the business of Madera is agriculture, I intend to make its protection a top priority,” he said.

Jennifer Allen, spokesperson for the Contra Costa Water District in Concord, about 45 minutes from San Francisco, said it’s not uncommon for her agency to receive reports of water theft, but as the drought has continued, she said there has been an uptick in reports.

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New age of water wars portends ‘bleak future’

New age of water wars portends ‘bleak future’

Behind the escalating violence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the epidemic of civil unrest across the wider region, is a growing shortage of water.

New peer-reviewed research published by the American Water Works Association (AWWA) shows that water scarcity linked to climate change is now a global problem playing a direct role in aggravating major conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

Numerous cities in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia are facing “short and declining water supplies per capita,” which is impacting “worldwide” on food production, urban shortages, and even power generation.

In this month’s issue of the Journal of the AWWA, US water management expert Roger Patrick assesses the state of the scientific literature on water scarcity in all the world’s main regions, finding that local water shortages are now having “more globalised impacts”.

He highlights the examples of “political instability in the Middle East and the potential for the same in other countries” as illustrating the increasing “global interconnectedness” of water scarcity at local and regional levels.

In 2012, a US intelligence report based on a classified National Intelligence Estimate on water security, commissioned by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, concluded that after 2022, droughts, floods and freshwater depletion would increase the likelihood of water being used as a weapon or war, or a tool of terrorism.

The new study in the Journal of the AWWA, however, shows that the US intelligence community is still playing catch-up with facts on the ground. Countries like Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where US counter-terrorism operations are in full swing, are right now facing accelerating instability from terrorism due to the destabilising impacts of unprecedented water shortages.


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Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles – Bloomberg

Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles – Bloomberg.

Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.

The standoff in a nation with morewater resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

“It’s unusual in that it’s two very large cities facing what could be a new, permanent conflict over the allocation of water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California. “It’s a wake-up call that even places we think of as water-rich have to learn to do a better job of managing what’s ultimately a scarce resource. Nature doesn’t always cooperate with us.”

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Three International Water Conflicts to Watch – Geopoliticalmonitor.com

Three International Water Conflicts to Watch – Geopoliticalmonitor.com.

China-India: The Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra River is a 2,900 km river that originates in Tibet and flows through India’s Arunachal Pradesh state before merging with the Ganges and draining into the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh. It is considered an important resource in all three countries that it flows through: for energy-hungry China, it provides hydroelectricity; and for India and Bangladesh, a key agricultural lifeline in otherwise overpopulated and arid region.

The Brahmaputra River is particularly important to the agricultural industry in India’s Assam plains, and worries have arisen recently regarding a series of hydroelectric plants that China is in various stages of construction on its Tibetan plateau. Some experts believe that these projects will reduce the flow of the Brahmaputra in India, compounding an already tenuous water situation in the affected areas.

While there is no comprehensive bilateral treaty in place for the sustainable management of the Brahmaputra River, some steps have been taken recently by the Modi and Xi Jinping governments, mainly in the form of an information sharing agreement for hydrological data. But until cooperation becomes more entrenched, the Brahmaputra River remains a potential source of friction between two of the world’s preeminent rising powers.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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