Water. Conflict or Cooperation?

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Atkinson, Katherine. Dam. 2005 Photograph. Flickr. www.flickr.com 2017


It is nothing new that we are over depleting our aquafers on a global level. While not everywhere has hit peak water usage yet, many places have as we continue to use our fresh water supply quicker than it can be replenished. This is particularly important with regard to fossil aquifers which are non-replenishing.

There have been many tactics used to ensure people don’t run out of water. One problem with this is that much of this is done in self-service. If you are able to purchase water rights, live higher along a river that can be dammed, able to invest in desalination and water treatment, or are able to afford water in virtual form, you are ok while others suffer the cost. This is especially important when your source of water, such a deeper wells or dammed rivers, physically keeps or takes water from others.

Who should get access to limited supplies of water? “Is abundant water the next must-have possession of the 1 percent?” (Egan) This is an example on a systemic feedback loop, as fresh water continues to diminish more people will be become desperate for water and conflict is inevitable without deliberate change.

This deliberate change comes in the form of cooperation and management. In the problem there is a seed of a solution. (Litfin) This is something that can be seen in many situation such as in the Himalayan province of Yunnan, in the Across The River, a Transboundary Peace Park agreement between Sierra Leone and Liberia, and in India’s regions that receive as little at 16cm of water who work together with state, public and private entrepreneurs to develop water reserves. (Mishra)

California who has also has had significant water shortage in recent years has the potential to adopt this practice of developing a solution to the problem. Not only does California have the ability to develop and implement sustainable practices, after all “what California still has, in great supply, is ingenuity” (Egan) but it also has the opportunity to help educate the developed western society on the importance of water supply conservation in a part of the world where most act as if there is no water shortage at all.

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