Issues We Work On

Water, Conflict, and Business

Water resources have rarely, if ever, been the sole source of violent conflict or war. But this fact has led some international security “experts” to ignore the complex and real relationships between water and security. In fact, there is a long history of conflicts and tensions over water resources and the use of water systems as weapons during war.

Increasing business awareness of potential impacts to operations while operating in conflict or “high-risk zones” has led companies to seriously consider how to engage in conflict-sensitive business practice.  Combined with greater awareness of the global water crisis, there has been much research on how water use and pollution by companies can exacerbate conflict – however, there has been less research that explores more broadly the ways that conflict and high-risk situations can affect water systems and resources directly, as well as on the planning, construction, operation, and management of water systems, and how these may impact business.

To prepare for these situations, companies will need to proactively analyze the water system’s operating environment and how the company uses water directly and indirectly – and the source of that water. Their responses to these water-related risks can have a range of results, from exacerbating local conflict situations to positively addressing risks for the benefit of the company and the local community.

The Pacific Institute’s work in this area looks specifically at this set of issues, proposing a framework for understanding the nature of water challenges in conflict and high-risk areas and how these, in turn, affect business operations and society. It also poses potential areas for further inquiry around how businesses may use existing water-related risk assessment tools to consider potential risks for operating in conflict and high-risk areas.

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