Home Water Wars 2025: The Geopolitics of Europe’s resources

GEAB 174

The monthly bulletin of LEAP (European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) - 15 Apr 2023

Water Wars 2025: The Geopolitics of Europe’s resources

Climate change has been shifting our relationship with water, bringing power and politics into human rights issues of access and management, because the powerless is particularly hit by this. Besides the question of access to safe water for domestic use, it is also a matter of sovereignty over the landscape.[1] Water also serves many purposes of development and social cohesion: whether we consider it too much or too little, inadequate, and quite often unsafe, at global, European or local levels, protecting this fundamental natural resource requires solid governance strategies, for the common good of citizens, who are entitled to control the landscape they live in.

Will the Earth run out of water? How could we waste less water? How can the competing demands of different water users be reconciled? Will there be water wars in the future?… many questions keep coming up. We can already anticipate tensions, and maybe even conflicts down the road, mainly around access to non-polluted water. Supranational institutions fail to bring consensus to this scarcity challenge, consequently national governments will have no choice but arbitrate between the different users of water… and of the water distributors all the same, up to the last drop.[2] Some are going to be left out and thus get angry, regulations are being implemented[3] and technology will help in some respects,[4] but infrastructure is not yet in place in most affected areas. With all these interstate conflicts (the Spanish no longer want to share their water with Portugal,[5] water woes loom amid climate change in the Alps,[6] the German pollution endangers the Dutch drinking water,[7] water has been weaponised in Ukraine’s conflict,[8] …) and intrastate declared disputes (France is currently facing an explosive watargate affair[9]), should we proceed to the inclusion of water in our global social strategy or is it better to create new governance tools and develop a circular urban water economy?

With drought becoming more commonplace within this ever-warming planet, the way we address our life resources is more and more pressing and water wars will be difficult to prevent.

Europe’s future is in drought


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