Eight major rivers running dry from overuse – a future source of conflict?

  • Eight of the world’s greatest rivers have no net outflow due to the scale of human interventions upstream. Rivers, such as the Colorado, the Indus in Pakistan and the Yellow River in China, are so heavily abstracted for agriculture, industry and municipal uses that they rarely reach river deltas.
  • This has detrimental impacts on delta ecosystems and fertile land for rice paddies and fisheries. Water scarcity in some regions is leading to riots and political tensions between countries that share river resources.
  • Rio20+ has paved the way for discussions on a more sustainable energy-water-food nexus, with 45 CEOs committing to sustainable water use, and proposals for new goals on water use and sanitation. The results of the event are likely to hold benefits in the very long-term future, but are unlikely to resolve local water shortages and conflict over water in the short to medium term.

Whilst the UK is not directly affected, the indirect impacts could be large due to our reliance on global trade and imports of commodities produced in these regions. The article draws attention to the increase in conflicts over the world’s water resources and the need to manage these at a global scale, using systemic approaches which consider local and global priorities for food, energy, water and health.

For more information, visit: http://tinyurl.com/6wdgbmw

About Julia Chatterton

Systems modeller with a particular expertise in food, farming and agricultural systems. Working with life cycle assessment methods for over 4 years to assess and analyse the environmental burdens associated with food and other production systems.
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