Water Conflict Chronology

260+ River Basins are shared by two or more countries and can become sources of tension or cooperation.

Source: United Nations Watercourses Convention

By 2040 nearly 1 in 4 children globally could live in areas with very limited water, increasing the risk of illness, water poverty, and conflicts.

Source: UNICEF report on World Water Day, 2017

6% decline in GDP by 2050 is expected in some regions due to reduced availability or quality of freshwater, potentially contributing to cross-border migration.

Source: World Bank

Water resources and water infrastructure are not only triggers of conflict—they can be a casualties of conflict or used as weapons as well. In regions where water scarcity is becoming an ever-increasing concern, water may become a driver of conflict and violence. And in parts of the world where violent conflict is occurring, vital water infrastructure can be damaged or destroyed, in some cases purposefully, to cause harm to the opposing side. In response to these critical issues, the Pacific Institute is leading the effort to identify, track, and analyze water-related conflict from around the world. 

By gathering, analyzing, and mapping water-related conflicts for more than 30 years, the Pacific Institute has helped to raise awareness, identify trends, and outline potential solutions for these complex issues. Its work does not exist in isolation, however. In collaboration with distinguished partners such as the World Resources Institute, the Water, Peace, and Security Partnership, Oregon State University, and researchers from around the world, the Pacific Institute has been instrumental in developing novel tools and strategies intended to support mediation of water-related conflicts. 

The Pacific Institute’s Water Conflict Chronology stands as a significant contribution to efforts aimed at addressing inequities in water resource management, keeping peace, and protecting critical infrastructure and resources during violent conflicts. . This widely respected resource traces the history of water as a trigger, a casualty, or a weapon of violent conflict. Since the 1980s, the Pacific Institute has been compiling and curating data on water conflicts, a testament to its commitment to this issue.  

1600+  Water conflict incidents catalogued from 2500 BCE to 2023 
View the Chronological List
View the Map

Additions, modifications, and updates to the Chronology are posted periodically, with major revisions in 2018, 2019, and 2022. A major update in November 2023 expanded the catalog of events to more than 1,600 incidents that trace back to the earliest known water war in ancient Mesopotamia, 4,500 years ago. This update includes new data from the Russia-Ukraine War, growing tensions in the Middle East, and new concerns about the role of drought, climate, and scarcity in Africa, Southern Asia, and elsewhere. 

“As water crises accelerate today, they trigger systemic stresses that spark conflict, food insecurity, and human migration. Fortunately, the Pacific Institute helps us learn from past and present water conflicts in order to map paths to a more peaceful, stable, equitable water world in the changing climate.” – J. Carl Ganter 
Managing Director, Circle of Blue

Other Resources

For more information, contact: 

Morgan Shimabuku
Senior Researcher, Pacific Institute

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