Rivalries over water have been the source of disputes since humans settled down to cultivate food. But while users within a nation often fight over water, no nations have gone to war specifically over water resources for thousands of years. International water disputes are resolved peacefully, even as conflicts erupt over other issues.

Warnings of coming "water wars" have diverted attention from the benefits that can flow from the world's transboundary river basins. By coming together to jointly manage their shared water resources, countries can build trust and help prevent conflict.

To bring these little-known opportunities to a wider audience, the Environmental Change and Security Program's Navigating Peace initiative has designed a series of short policy-friendly briefs that examines how water can contribute to cooperation between states, while addressing water's role in conflict within states. The briefs offer policy recommendations for using water resources management to head off conflict and to support sustainable peace among countries.

Released in time for the annual World Water Week meetings in Stockholm, Sweden, the first and second policy briefs, "Water Can Be a Pathway to Peace, Not War" and "The Challenges of Groundwater in
Southern Africa"
will be distributed to water stakeholders, policymakers, and activists.

Three more briefs will be published on:

  • New dynamics of water conflict;
  • Lessons from the Nile River Basin; and
  • The Niger River Basin.

    Water Stories

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    Water Stories
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    In March 2006, the Navigating Peace initiative launched "Water Stories," an interactive website addressing small-scale water and sanitation projects. In recent decades, many projects in the water and sanitation sectors have performed poorly. While the international community has increasingly turned to small-scale and community-based projects, research and information on these methods are limited.

    To help fill this research gap, "Water Stories" offers papers and audio/video presentations exploring lessons learned and assessing NGO and community-based water and sanitation efforts. The papers will be compiled into a forthcoming book.

    Navigating Peace

    The Navigating Peace Initiative, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and led by ECSP Director Geoffrey Dabelko, seeks to generate fresh thinking on the world's water problems in three areas:

  • Expanding opportunities for small-scale water and sanitation projects;
  • Analyzing water's potential to spur both conflict and cooperation; and
  • Building dialogue and cooperation between the United States and China using lessons from water conflict resolution.

    Photo Credits
    Top: Gidon Bromberg, Friends of the Earth Middle East
    Bottom: copyright J. Carl Ganter/Getty Images