"Water Wars" Unlikely, But Failure of Cities Could Cause Conflict: Interview with Ben Crow
August 26, 2013
by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin
Because of a broadening of actors involved in water security, and decreases in irrigation demand in some areas, so-called 'water wars' will likely be avoided, though the failure of governments to provide basic municipal services in cities could be a source of conflict, said Ben Crow, professor and department chair of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
"It's quite possible that the failure of governments to provide access to water and sanitation, and, more broadly, to the rights of city living, could be a cause of instability and lack of government legitimacy," he
Water use and access is shifting, Mr. Crow
said; for instance, some countries now need more water for hydroelectric power, and less for irrigation.
And climate change is proving to be a wild card in predicting problems.
"Climate change is certainly melting glaciers in the Himalayas," he
favors a multitrack and multilateral diplomacy framework for international river negotiations and management, and though countries like India tend to negotiate bilaterally, he
said, "I think in an age of new media, and in an age of growing democratic representation, it's possible that the aims of multilateralism can be achieved even when governments want to negotiate only two at a time."
Andrea Ó Súilleabháin: I'm here today with Ben Crow, professor and department chair of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
specializes in development and global inequalities.
has written extensively on water security, including international river management in South Asia and water access in Kenya's urban settlements.
, thank you for speaking with me today on the Global Observatory.
According to some experts, disputes over water are set to become the defining crisis of the 21st century, from the islands of the Asia-Pacific to the urban centers of Africa.
In your view, will access to water be a dominant source of conflict in the decades to come?
: Well, I think there are two different questions here.
Frequently, people have talked about water wars over international rivers.
, thank you for sharing your insights with us today.