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Could Water Scarcity Prompt A Battle Between U.S. and Canada?

By Sara Jerome
Is water so scarce that it could lead to war between the U.S. and Canada over ownership of the valuable substance?

Post Media’s Canada.com recently reported: “Canada must prepare for diplomatic water wars with the U.S., as demand on both sides of the border grows for this vital but ultimately limited resource, says Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the United States.”

He said the problem is so pressing that in five years it will make other public debates look “silly.”

“I think five years from now we will be spending diplomatically a lot of our time and a lot of our work dealing with water,” he said in the report. “There will be pressure on water quality and water quantity.”

Canada is rich in water resources. The country “happens to control over 21 percent of the world’s supply of fresh water,” a TreeHugger column recently noted. The Great Lakes, located on the U.S.-Canada border, contain 84 percent of North America’s surface fresh water, the column said. They “are protected by treaty and the USA cannot simply stick a straw in it. Or can they?’” the column asked.

Canada’s ambassador is not alone in forecasting colossal future conflicts over water. Just ask three successive United Nations secretaries general.

Back in 1985, Boutros Boutros Ghali said, “The next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics,” according to BBC News.

Kofi Annan said in 2001: “Fierce competition for fresh water may well become a source of conflict and wars in the future,” per an announcement by United Nations University, an academic and research arm of the U.N.

Ban Ki Moon said in 2007: “The consequences for humanity are grave. Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict.” Blood has already been shed in the Middle East over water.

“There is a water war going on in the Middle East this summer. Behind the headline stories of brutal slaughter as Sunni militants carve out a religious state covering Iraq and Syria, there lies a battle for the water supplies that sustain these desert nations,” Yale Environment 360 reported.

The sides are fighting “to capture the giant dams that control the region’s two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. These structures hold back vast volumes of water. With their engineers fleeing as the Islamic State (ISIS) advances, the danger is that the result could be catastrophe — either deliberate or accidental,” the report said.




Current Issue: Africa Water & Sanitation & Hygiene March-April 2017 Vol.12 No.2