Water Conflicts


(Conflicts) The River Nile

  • The River Nile is the longest river in the world, and runs through ten nations in North and East Africa
  • Developing countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia have developed irrigation and damming schemes upstream of the river (Tis Abay, a new 73MW hydro plant; Khashm El Girba Dam, a new 13MW hydro plant)
  • This has led to conflict with Egypt, the prime consumers of the water supply in the Nile.
  • Tensions have also risen between Ethiopia and Eritrea over water supply.
  • The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) is a partnership among the Nile riparian countries that “seeks to develop the river in a co-operative manner, share substantial socio-economic benefits, and promote regional peace and equality and security. The initiative was founded in February 1999.
  • A treaty was also signed in 1959 between Sudan and Egypt, which gave Egypt permission to build the Aswan High Dam and Sudan the Rosaries Dam.
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(Conflicts) The Tigris-Euphrates River Basin

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, originating in Turkey and cutting through both Syria and Iraq, have experienced drastic reductions in water flows in recent years due, primarily, to Turkish hydro-engineering (the GAP project) and regional droughts. This is of significance for Iraq, which has historically prospered because of the rich agricultural harvests based on water supplies sourced from these waterways. Turkish initiatives aimed at massively expanding their exploitation of the water from the two rivers have coincided with severe droughts in the region and resulted in a burgeoning water-shortage crisis in Iraq. This problem threatens an environmental catastrophe. Political negotiations between the three countries have so far fallen short of reaching agreement on providing the necessary increases in flow rates to address the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

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(Conflicts) The Colorado River

  • In 1884 the International Boundary and Water Commission was founded between Mexico and the United States as an entity to, among other things, oversee the flow of water from the United States to Mexico.
  • However the commission and subsequent 1944 treaty did not provide for the level of quality which became a problem with rapid development in the southern United States in the late 1950s. The United States began diverting significant amounts of water from the Colorado River for the new developed areas.
  • This led to protest from Mexico, as the flow reaching the country was both reduced and polluted.
  • In 2012, Mexico and the US agreed new rules on sharing and managing water from the Colorado River, which serves some 30 million people in the two nations.
  • Under the deal, the US will send less water to Mexico during a drought, while Mexico will be able to store water north of the border during wet years.
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(Management) Ashkelon Desalination Plant

  • The Ashkelon seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant is the largest in the world of its kind.
  • It produced 101 million m³ in 2006, 104 million m³ in 2007 and 111 million m³ in 2008.
  • With a capacity of 330,000m³ per day, the plant produces around 13% of the country's domestic consumer demand – equivalent to 5–6% of Israel's total water needs.
  • In 2009, due to the unqualified success of the plant, it was expanded by nearly 20% to 392,000 m³/day, providing clean water for more than a million people in Israel.
  • Every element of the plant was customized to maximize performance and minimize costs.
  • The plant is a huge desalination facility that provides Israeli consumers with 100 million m³ of water a year. That is the equivalent of approximately 5-6 percent of national water needs.
  • The desalination plant is a prime terrorist target, which is a big concern for Israel.
  • The total project cost was $212m and was funded by a mixture of equity (23%) and debt (77%). The overall revenue over the period of the contract will be in the region of $825m.
  • The opening of additional plants in Hadera, Ashdod, Caeserea and Palmatin takes 3 years to build, which is very expensive.
  • The construction and operating of each plant requires its own dedicated power plant, which boosts air pollution and eats away at non-renewable resources.
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(Management) South to North Transfer Project

  • The project costs $62Bn, and will divert 44.8Bn m³ of water from the Yangtze River in southern China to the Yellow River Basin in the arid north.
  • When completed, the project will link up China's 4 main rivers; the Yangzi, Yellow, Huaihe and Haihe, and divert water along three canals, the Eastern, Central, and Western routes.
  • The volume of water it is expected to deliver should be adequate to meet the water needs of agricultural and industrial sectors in all of these areas.
  • Beijing has 55 pilot projects encouraging the use of rainwater harvesting. Currently, 21M Chinese farmers harvest rainwater, and the potential water savings are enormous.
  • The project will mitigate the crisis of water resources in Beijing Tianjin and North China, and increase irrigated area by 0.6M ha, 6.4B m³ for municipal and industrial water supply, 3.0B m³ for agriculture, for Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei.
  • Roughly 300,000 people are to be resettled by the project. The majority of resettlers would be displaced by the raising of Danjiankou Dam for the central route. 
  • In an effort to encourage water conservation, the project may involve increased water tariffs.
  • Diversion of water from the Yangtze will likely worsen pollution problems along the river. 40% of China’s wastewater is now dumped in the river, according to The New York Times. 
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(Management) Three Gorges Dam

  • China’s Three Gorges Dam, which runs along the Yangtze River, was opened in 2008. The Yangtze is China’s longest river and is rich in both water resources and hydropower.
  • The dam was constructed to offset the large reliance on coal-fired power stations, which provide 70% of the nation’s energy.
  • The dam was also built to help control flooding. The approving of the project in 1992 came as the aftermath of a series of devastating floods in 1991, in which 3,000 people died.
  • The 18,200MW of hydro-electric electricity generated could save 50 million tonnes of coal each year, providing 10% of the country’s energy.
  • The project will supply water to a region responsible for 22% of China's GDP.
  • Flood control has been greatly improved due to the dam, saving lives and cutting losses from flood damage.
  • Over 1.2 million people have been relocated due to the project.
  • 1,300 archeology sites have been flooded, including that of the ancient Ba civilization that settled in the Three Gorges area over 4,000 years ago. 
  • The ecological impacts on fisheries, biodiversity and habitats are considerable.
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(Management) Soft Engineering Technologies

  • Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and deposition of rainwater for reuse before it reaches the aquifer.
  • In Rajasthan, rainwater harvesting has traditionally been practiced by the people of the Thar Desert. There are many ancient water harvesting systems in Rajasthan, which have now been revived. Water harvesting systems are widely used in other areas of Rajasthan as well, for example the chauka system from the Jaipur district.
  • LifeStraw is a water filter designed to be used by one person to filter water so that they may safely drink it. It filters a maximum of 1000 litres of water, enough for one person for one year. 
  • It was distributed in the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2010 Pakistan and 2011 Thailand floods.
  • Paul Hetherington, of WaterAid, has criticised the LifeStraw for being too expensive for the target market. It also requires massive upscaling in order to make significant change.
  • Puppet shows and drama productions have taken place in Rajasthan, located near the Chambal and Banas rivers.
  • These shows help to raise awareness about water sustainability and warn of the consequences of over-consumption.
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