Water stress and scarcity is fast becoming one of the biggest and most pressing global environmental issues, with demand set to outstrip supply in many countries around the world within the next ten to 20 years – even in the UK, which enjoys a huge amount of annual rainfall.
Experts have been warning for years that water wars are going to become more commonplace as time goes on and supplies around the world start to dwindle.
And it seems that we’re starting to see the first signs of water-based conflict in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua even now, where local farmers have taken over the pumping station and administrative blocks of the La Boquilla Dam, forcing Mexico’s national guard to retreat in a battle for control that took place in September.
According to Sky News, a treaty was signed between Mexico and the US in 1944 that saw Mexico direct millions of cubic metres of water to America on the east side of the country, while the US directed resources to Mexico on the west side.
But the problem Mexico now faces is that it has failed to keep up its end of the deal for years, so now finds itself in debt to the US – and the rain has stopped falling. By law, the water in the dams is set aside for local farming, but the US intends to drain them and divert the water for its own use.
Farmers in Chihuahua state say that this will ruin them and they are now refusing to allow the water to be moved, with approximately 20,000 farmers saying they cannot allow the dam water to be taken. More guards have now been deployed by the Mexican government, supported by the army, but the worry is that they will move in and take control of the dam.
A recent report from the World Resources Institute suggested that there are a wide variety of solutions that could help reduce water-related conflicts, ranging from natural resources, policy and governance, science and engineering, and economic and financial strategies.
However, the key is to understand the main drivers of risk to identify the appropriate solutions to water and security challenges. Implementation of solutions could prove difficult for various reasons, whether that’s widespread corruption, insufficient financial resources and technical capacity, or the existence of social or cultural barriers.
Other possible solutions to the problem include limiting water use in water-stressed regions, repairing and expanding urban water delivery and sewage treatment systems and coming up with transboundary water-sharing agreements.