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Water Wars: The Next Global Conflict Over Diminishing Freshwater Resources

March 07, 2024 0 Comments

Water wars aren’t new. But they’re reaching all-time highs—and hitting closer to home. 

There were 344 instances of water-related conflicts worldwide during 2022 and the first half of 2023.

Final data isn’t yet available for 2023, but they expect it to surpass 2022—and 2022 was the highest ever. 

While most conflicts are abroad, they are starting to happen in the United States. 

Hedge funds are buying water rights out west. There’s a battle brewing for our water.

Just like with food, if they control the water, they control you.

Read on to discover how serious these freshwater-related conflicts are and learn how to prepare for a future with fewer water resources.

Demand Is Growing and Investors Know It

A woman putting bottled water into her shopping cart at the grocery store.

Here in the United States, water is not seen as an essential need. It is seen as a hot commodity. And demand is on the rise.

According to Jean-Hugues de Lamaze, managing director and senior portfolio manager at Ecofin, “Scarcity is a predominant theme in the water space, as demand is expected to exceed supply by (around) 40% by 2030, and in fact, only 1% of water on the globe's surface is usable for human consumption.”

In another report, “ Demand for freshwater will outstrip supply by about 40% which could lead to a global water crisis if no imminent action is taken.

Let those numbers sink in. They’re terrifying. As demand rises, so will the financialization of freshwater.

This quote says it all:

Water Asset Management president Matt Diserio called water in the United States a trillion-dollar market opportunity and said he started the company “on the core belief that scarce clean water is the resource defining this century, much like plentiful, cheap dirty oil defined the last century.” 

Essentially, water-focused investment companies are buying up as much freshwater as they can so they can eventually make money off it.

The former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe explains, “One perspective held by various NGOs – which I would call extreme – is that water should be declared a human right … The other view is that water is a grocery product. And just as every other product, it should have a market value.”

As a result of viewing water as a product to buy and sell, there are a growing number of water-focused investment companies and wealthy corporations buying as much as they can.

According to AZ Central, “Water Asset Management and Vidler Water Company own agricultural lands totaling about 8,642 acres in several areas of the state. These same companies have bought land and water rights in places across the West, amassing a growing list of investments in Colorado, Nevada, California, New Mexico and Idaho.”  

In 2022, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a Bill Gates-owned company battled to buy 22,500 acres of ranchland and its associated water rights.

Governing reports, “A 2018 deal showed the tremendous speculative value of land/water deals in the Columbia River Basin. That’s when Gates’ 100C paid $171 million for 14,500 acres of land (10,500 acres of it irrigated farmland) from the Boston-based John Hancock Life Insurance Company, which had paid $75 million for the parcel in 2010.”

There are far more instances I could list. But I think you get the point—the amount of greedy companies buying up land with water rights is only going to increase from here.

Global Battles Raging Over Water

It’s not just water financialization that is a concern.

Using water as a weapon of war is reality. It’s happening across the globe. What makes you think it won’t happen here?

The Pacific Institute created the Water Conflict Chronology. The findings “show a major upsurge in violent incidents, driven partly by the targeting of dams and water systems in Ukraine as well as an increase in water-related violence in the Middle East and other regions.”

This database has more than 1,630 water conflicts listed, with most of the cases occurring since 2000 and indicating a rising trend over the last decade and spiking in the last few years.

In African countries, farmers and herders have been fighting over water sources. 

Droughts in Iran and India have resulted in violent protests.

It’s not just the fighting over water sources. There have also been several water conflicts involving targeting water infrastructures.

According to news sources, “The latest additions to the database include 56 incidents from the Russia-Ukraine war, many of them involving attacks on water infrastructure.” For instance, Russian troops purposely bombed a water system in Ukraine to cut off a city’s water supply.

Similar conflicts have been taking place between Israelis and Palestinians.

While major water conflicts like these are taking place around the world, we must also acknowledge that several American water infrastructures have been recently attacked.

[Related Read: Water Contamination in the U.S. Is an Issue. Here’s What You Need to Know.]

When a Lack of Water Turns Volatile

A bullet falling into a puddle and making a splash.

History has shown that water scarcity can turn violent—fast.

It’s even happened in the United States. In 1892, ranchers in Johnson County, Wyoming engaged in a bloody battle over water.

But the problem is, we’re seeing it happen at a much higher rate than in the past.

Peter Gleick, a cofounder of the Pacific Institute, explains the gravity of water conflicts:

It’s very disturbing that in particular attacks on civilian water infrastructure seem to be on the rise. We also see a worrying increase in violence associated with water scarcity worsened by drought, climate disruptions, growing populations, and competition for water.”

He adds, “There have been a growing number of incidents where drought has led to violence associated with disputes over control and access to freshwater.”

Implications for Our Farmers

Entities buying up land to obtain water rights put farmers—and our source of food—in a dangerous position.

Kerry Donovan, a rancher in Colorado, explains, “One day they will sell that water off, which means the land would go out of agriculture production. […] And they’ll sell when water is worth the most, which is when we have the least of it.

If farmers don’t have land, it’s a problem. If farmers don’t have land and lack water, it’s an even bigger problem.

How To Prepare for Water Wars

A person holding dry earth in their cupped hands over a field of dried, cracked land.

Water is the origin of all life.  Without access to fresh water, our farmers can’t grow. Can’t feed livestock, either. 

Controlling access to water is another way to control us. 

The threat to our water sources is very real. Make it a goal to be water secure.

Don’t simply believe you’ll always be able to turn on your tap and access clean, safe water. Every American home should have water filtration tools, such as:

In addition, make sure you stock up on emergency survival food

Water is precious, friends. Don’t find yourself without it.

In liberty,
Elizabeth Anderson

Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply

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