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In this light, water is becoming the world’s next major security and economic challenge.

Although no modern war has been fought simply over water, this resource has been an underlying factor in several armed conflicts. With the era of cheap, bountiful water having been replaced by increasing supply and quality constraints, the risks of overt water wars are now increasing.

Averting water wars demands rules-based cooperation, water sharing and dispute-settlement mechanisms. However, there is still no international water law in force, and most of the regional water agreements are toothless, lacking monitoring and enforcement rules and provisions formally dividing water among users. Worse still, unilateralist appropriation of shared resources is endemic in the parched world, especially where despots rule.

The international community thus confronts a problem more pressing than peak oil, economic slowdown and other oft-cited challenges. Addressing this core problem indeed holds the key to dealing with other challenges because of water’s nexuses with energy shortages, stresses on food supply, population pressures, pollution, environmental degradation, global epidemics, climate change and natural disasters.

Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and the author of “Water, Peace, and War”(Rowman & Littlefield, 2013).