Conflicting uses of water

Other Names:
Disputes over water rights
Water conflicts

*** At the global level, the amount of water that is withdrawn from the overall water table (withdrawal ratios) are Agriculture—69%, Municipal (including household)—12%, and Industrial—19%. 


*** According to the FAO Aquastat, The graphs below combine global water withdrawal and world population over time. World population increased 4.4 times over the last century while water withdrawal increased 7.3 times over the same period. Thus, global water withdrawal increased 1.7 times faster than world population. However, it can also be seen from the graph that, while world population is still growing exponentially, increase in water withdrawal has slowed down over the last decades.




According to a 1999 report, corporations have started to sue governments in order to gain access to domestic water sources. For example, Sun Belt, a California company, was suing the government of Canada under NAFTA because British Columbia banned water exports several years before. The company claimed that B.C.'s law violated several NAFTA-based investor rights and therefore was claiming $220 million in compensation for lost profits.

Malaysia, which supplies about half of Singapore's water, threatened to cut off that supply in 1997 after Singapore criticized its government policies. In Africa, relations between Botswana and Namibia have been severely strained by Namibian plans to construct a pipeline to divert water from the shared Okavango River to eastern Namibia. There are potential water wars in the Middle East, where water resources are severely limited. The late King Hussein of Jordan once said the only thing he would go to war with Israel over was water because Israel controls Jordan's water supply.


The wars of the next century will be about water.

Water insecurity
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Date of last update
04.12.2019 – 23:07 CET