Ending Water Wars

Fresh water resources are becoming scarce as water demand from cities, industry, and agriculture rises. Can seemingly inevitable conflicts over water and the environment be avoided?

Access to fresh water has become an immediate concern in the United States. In recent years, unprecedented droughts have gripped central and western parts of the country, even as demand for water to supply cities, industry, and farming has grown.

And competition for water has led to a history of conflict between the states. Most recently in June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in a decades-long legal battle between Georgia and Florida over the right to water from a river system that is vital to the city of Atlanta and, downstream, to oyster fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet the court’s ruling leaves the conflict unresolved, a result that reflects the intractability of so many fights over waterway control over the years.

New research from Kleinman Center senior fellow Scott Moore suggests, counterintuitively, that water scarcity itself is often not the driving force behind water wars. Instead, a host of political and social factors often drive conflict.

Moore discusses his new book on water conflict, Subnational Hydropolitics: Conflict, Cooperation and Institution-Building in Shared River Basins, and explains how understanding the political and social roots of water conflict can help governments find solutions with positive outcomes for communities and the environment.


Scott Moore

Director of China Programs and Strategic Initiatives
Scott Moore is a former senior fellow at the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy and the Director of China Programs and Strategic Initiatives. He is also a practice professor of political science.

Andy Stone

Energy Policy Now Host and Producer
Andy Stone is producer and host of Energy Policy Now, the Kleinman Center’s podcast series. He previously worked in business planning with PJM Interconnection and was a senior energy reporter at Forbes Magazine.