Water Conflict Risk due to Water Resource Availability and Unequal Distribution

N. K. Gunasekara, S. Kazama, D. Yamazaki, T. Oki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this research is to support the assessment of countries' risks of water conflicts in the immediate future, considering their vulnerability to changes in water availability. The risk of international water conflicts in the 5 years ahead of the year of analysis was estimated based on current water availability and its unequal distribution. Countries were classified by their vulnerability to reductions in water availability. In these vulnerability groups, the links of water availability (TRIP discharges per capita) and its unequal distribution with the risk of water conflicts were explored. The Gini Coefficient was employed to measure the inequalities. Inequalities showed statistically significant positive Logit links with the risk of water conflicts. The greatest risk for volatile conflicts exists for the Asian, South American and African countries, having the lowest water availability and the lowest economic capacity. Increasing inequalities increases the likelihood of water conflicts, suggesting enhancing access to water, to lower the likelihood of water conflicts. South American and Congo River basin countries are only at risk of low-level water conflicts, but have higher risks of conflict escalation, when inequality increases. The risk of North American and Asian water conflicts were modeled well, except in western Asia. The water conflict estimation provided only 11.9 % under-estimations and an accuracy of 54.1 %, globally. Inequalities in water can indicate the risk of water conflicts in the above regions. However, the risk of water conflicts between countries with higher economic capacity in the European continent showed no link with inequality. This study will facilitate the estimation of the risk of water conflicts resulting from climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
JournalWater Resources Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan


  • Classification
  • Gini Coefficient
  • Inequality
  • Probability
  • Vulnerability
  • Water conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


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