Bill Frist – Water wars won’t be won on a battlefield. The Hill, December 2, 2018.
It’s an astonishing finding: “Two countries engaged in active water cooperation” will “not go to war, for any reason.” According to an extensive analysis by global issues think tank Strategic Foresight Group, it was found in examining 146 countries that share rivers, lakes and other freshwater resources, that “countries enjoying peaceful co-existence have active water cooperation and countries facing risk of war have low or no water cooperation.”
In fact, water is a popular target for terrorists. According to a U.S. Homeland Security report, between 2013 and 2015, ISIS alone launched nearly 20 major attacks against Syrian and Iraqi water infrastructure. When ISIS seized the Fallujah Dam, it gained dangerous leverage over local governments and populations by cutting off water to Christian, Kurdish, and Muslim minorities.
Bashar Assad reportedly bombed water sources around Damascus to cut off water to 5.5 million people and the Taliban has attacked dams in Afghanistan multiple times and attempted to assassinate Afghanistan’s minister for energy and water in 2009. When the Somali government retook cities and ports, Al-Shabab cut off liberated cities from water sources and destroyed water supplies.
Colombia’s FARC bombed an oil pipeline, polluting a major river that resulted in 150,000 people losing water in the country’s worst environmental disaster. In conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine, water treatment workers in Donetsk were regularly targeted as they struggled to keep clean water flowing to its 345,000 residents.
And just to drive the point home: A group of retired three- and four-star officers from across the U.S. military issued this report, The Role of Water Stress in Instability and Conflict, detailing the security threats that global water scarcity could pose for the U.S. and allies in coming years. In the next decade, some 2.9 billion people in 48 countries will face water shortages. Currently, 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water at home, and six in 10 lack safe sanitation globally.
On the anniversary of the launch of the first-ever U.S. Global Water Strategy, we must actively engage water security as a strategic path for U.S. foreign policy.
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