Water conflicts

  • Created by: rebecca
  • Created on: 02-05-15 17:29

Positive socio-economic impacts of increased water

  • improvements in sanitaion, health and general welfare
  • decrease in water borne diseases (e.g. cholera)
  • lower medical costs
  • healthier, better educated, more productive workforce - girls benefit in particular
  • supports growing industries and agriculture
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Negative socio-economic impacts of increased water

  • over-abstraction is leading to conflicts between users
  • local farmers are having to dig deep wells and buy bottled water (more expensive)
  • increased usage without infrastructure improvements and investments lead to polluted water sourses
  • polluted water leads to human health impacts i.e. diseases - cholera
  • polluted water leads to eutrophication and damage to marine life
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Evironmental impacts of increased water usage

  • increased diversion and control of rivers - some run dry or at lower levels having consequences for ecosystems (e.g. River Colorado)
  • marshland and wetlands drying out as water is diverted to human supply (e.g. Gulf of California)
  • dam construction impacts on ecosystems - changing river flows, landscape, temperature and siltation
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Influence of altitude on water availability

  • snow precipitation in mountains regions leads to snowpack water reserves released in the late spring
  • increased snow melt
  • climate change can reduce snowpack reserves
  • e.g. Andes, Himalayas, Rockies
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Climate and river regimes

  • rainfall is determined by global atmospheric circulation
  • tropical areas experiencing recurring drought
  • El Nino and La Nina can cause variations in rainfall e.g. California and Australia
  • temperature affects evaporation rates e.g. 65% is lost in California from evapotranspiration
  • rain shadow effect on leeward side of mountains
  • climate change is exacerbating drought in some regions e.g. North America
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Human factors affecting water stress

  • over abstraction
  • wasteful irrigation
  • conflict over transboundary resources
  • tourism
  • urbanisation
  • dams
  • deforestation interferring with the water cycle
  • virtual water se
  • population stress
  • pollution of water supplies in industrialisation
  • sewage (industrial effluent)
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Water use factors

  • level of economic development - impacts use for industry, agriculture & domestic
  • cost/affordability
  • domestic water distribution system
  • efficiency of irrigation system, wastage
  • campaigns to encourage sustainable use
  • conflicting uses especially where there is transboundary supply
  • population growth
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The Aral Sea - Case Study

  • has been shrinking since the 1960's due to the Soviet government diverting water from the rivers Amu Darya & Syr Darya for irrigation & agriculture
  • by 2007, it has declined in size by 10% of original size

Socio-economic & environmental impacts:

  • shrinkage of wetlands & lakes by up to 85%
  • habitat loss
  • localised climate change
  • desertification - leaving dust filled with pesticides & toxins spreading due to sand storm killing vegetation & respiratory diseases
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The Aral Sea - continued...

Players involved in the abstraction / crisis:

  • former Soviet government: communist leaders began the irrigation scheme to develop cotton farming to create jobs for millions of farmers
  • fishing community: left many fishermen unemployed
  • local residents: health problems caused from wind blown salt & dust; drinking water has become polluted from fertilisers & industry waste

Causes of local climate change:

  • reduced evaporation & condensation meaning less water for cloud formation leading to precipitation
  • dust interfers with the water cycle and cloud formation
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The Colorado River - Case Study

  • large source for irrigation water in the USA
  • the source for the river is the Rockies
  • flows through 7 states

Who are the stakeholders?

  • US & Mexican farmers; federal governments; locals; tourists; environmentalists

Conflict created:

  • Colorado Compact - some areas are allocated less water struggling to meet their demand
  • popn. using the water is increasing so increasing demand lowering supply
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The Colorado River - continued...

The Colorado Compact:

  • 1922, it divided the river up into 2 basins: upper and lower
  • the US states were allocated shared rights
  • 1944, Mexico was allocated more

Impacts of the regulation of the river:

  • gives regular all-year water to cities i.e Las Vegas (tourism)
  • less silt carried by water reducing the temp causing extinction of fish
  • shrinking sand banks - habitat loss, loss of tourism (rafting)
  • dams & reservoirs built to control flooding & store water e.g. Hoover Dam
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The Murray-Darling Basin, Ausralia - Case Study

Causes of environmental problems:

  • changes in agriculture & a piecemeal approach to regulating the river system
  • irrigation & drought are leading to increasing salinity levels
  • fertilisers washing off into the rivers leading to eutrophication
  • over abstraction of groundwater reducing amount of available water
  • irrigation is rasing the water table causing water logging
  • overcropping/overfarming leadig to poor soil structure & acidification

Environmental impacts of increased water use:

  • dam construction impacts on ecosystems - changing river flow, temperature, siltation and landscape
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The Murray-Darling Basin, Ausralia - continued...

  • needs management due to the increase in popn. & declining rainfall
  • surplus in the east, deficit in the west; El Nino-drought (unpredictability)
  • human pressures: farming, domestic use from 2mn population, groundwater extraction increasing by 4% a year
  • management: redistribute water to drier west regions via dams
  • environmental problems: natural floodplains no longer flood, 50-80% of fish species are now extinct, increase salinity, eutrophication, soil degration, loss of ecosystems
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China's South-North Water Transfer - Case Study

  • South is rich in resources, north is not
  • Water conservation, improved irrigation, pollution treatment & eviro protection is part of the plansSourh

Environmental risks:

  • reduced water in the River Yangtze
  • ecosystems change
  • less dilution / more concentration of pollutants from industry waste

Socio-economic & political risks:

  • less water in the south & east - hold back development
  • increased dominace of the Beijing-Tianjing region (tension)
  • displacement of people by flooding reservoires - CONFLICT!
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3 Gorges Dam - Case Study


  • electricity generated could save 50mn tonnes of coal a year
  • will supply water to a region responsible for 22% of China's GDP
  • flood protection could save lives & cut the financial losses created by flood damage


  • 1.9mn people will be displaced from homes & lose their land
  • dam failure, earthquakes, heavy rain pose serious safety risks
  • ecological impacts on wildlife & habitats; heritage sites would be lost
  • sediment could damage the turbines, raising water levels & reducing soil fertility downstream
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The Snowy Mountains Scheme - Case Study

  • in New South Wales, Australia
  • diverting water so it can be used by the power stations to create electricity (& HEP), irrigation, domestic use
  • 16 dams, 7 powerstations, network of tunnels, pipelines & aqueducts
  • people benefit from increased domestic supply & irrigation for farmers
  • environmental issues: flooding to form storage lakes destroy valuable habitats
  • salinisation problems
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