Water Wars: Science Fiction?
Water Wars – the phase itself suggests a blockbuster science fiction action film. In fact, there actually is an Emmy award-winning, animated science fiction television series entitled, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, created by George Lucas and based on his wildly popular Star Wars films, that incorporates battle scenes taking place in the ocean waters on the imaginary Ocean Planet, Dac. Broadcast on the Cartoon Network and Disney XD, the series ran from Oct., 2008 – March, 2013.
However (and sadly), the growing number of references to the phrase, “Water Wars,” that have been cropping up in the print and broadcast media for years are not referring to science fiction battles taking place in water but to the very likely possibility of real wars being fought in the near future over water resources that are predicted to become increasingly scarce as populations grow and the planet warms.
Water Wars: The Real Ones
A simple search on Google using the phrase, Water Wars, brings up hundreds of references to predicted (and current) 21st Century conflicts over water, including in-depth articles, full-length books, graphic illustrations, documentary films and even lesson plans for teachers. Sources include national and international newspapers and on-line journals/blogs as well as broadcast media, including, among many others, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Guardian, National Public Radio, National Geographic, Princeton University and Aljazeera. An especially effective graphic interpretation of the concept posted on Al-Sharq al-Awsat is shown below.
Although each of the print and broadcast references draws attention to different geo-political, economic or human aspects of the issues surrounding the predicted dearth of future water resources, William Finnegan, in his 2002 article in The New Yorker, entitled, Letter from Bolivia: Leasing the Rain summarizes the fundamental facts as follows:
The world is running out of fresh water. There’s water everywhere, of course, but less than three per cent of it is fresh, and most of that is locked up in polar ice caps and glaciers, unrecoverable for practical purposes. Lakes, rivers, marshes, aquifers, and atmospheric vapor make up less than one per cent of the earth’s total water, and people are already using more than half of the accessible runoff. Water demand, on the other hand, has been growing rapidly—it tripled worldwide between 1950 and 1990—and water use in many areas already exceeds nature’s ability to recharge supplies. By 2025, the demand for water around the world is expected to exceed supply by fifty-six per cent.
In response to the growing concern about future wars and potential terror threats over water, the U.S. intelligence agencies, at the request of the State Department, created a report in 2012, entitled, Global Water Security. Designed to determine how water problems (shortages, poor water quality and floods) will impact US national security over the next 30 years, the report states that “water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national interests… and as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely”
Water Wars: Our Call
I am calling attention to the threat of future Water Wars in The Wave blog, just as Elena and I are calling attention to all existing water issues through The Wave Project, so that we can encourage, in our small way, the development of partnerships among entities sharing water resources as well as technological, economic and political solutions to water problems rather than violent conflict.
And because it’s been on my mind for a while, I began a series of drawings entitled, “The Last Frontier,”which depict my ‘take’ on the topic of Water Wars. Shown below is the third of six drawings that I’ve completed to date.