Water Conflicts:

Analysis for Transformation

 WATER CONFLICTS from Mark Zeitoun, Naho Mirumachi, and Jeroen Warner applies cutting-edge thinking to identify pathways that can transform complex water conflicts. It challenges existing power-blind and politics-lite analysis that is very deeply-held and recurring in debates that suggest causal links between scarcity and violence—or peace. This book presents a much needed revision of transboundary water analysis, leading to a rethink on the way water is used and contested, with a focus on harm experienced both by the most vulnerable water users and the environment. 

Recognizing that conflicts are never static, Mark Zeitoun, Naho Mirumachi, and Jeroen Warner’s “transformative analysis” provides multi-disciplinary tools and perspectives to understand and address the complexities involved. The approach is stress-tested through dozens of examples around the globe, and it incorporates collective evidence and knowledge of the London Water Research Group. 

The insights on water diplomacy will be most welcome by analysts, activists, diplomats, and all others tackling water conflicts. Seeking to motivate improvement of transboundary water arrangements towards further equity and sustainability as a practical agenda, the book is a fresh antidote to the detached role that researchers and policymakers often play.

Areas Covered:

Over 13 river basins across the world are analyzed in the book, including less frequently discussed areas such as the Omo-Turkana Basin in eastern Africa, the River Scheldt in Europe, and the Amy Darya Basin in central Asia and a deeper look at individual rivers such as the Kosi and Mahakali in Nepal/India and the Yarmouk, a contested tributary of the Jordan river. The book offers a truly global coverage in geography and in approach, challenging deeply entrenched perspectives on borders, waters, and hydropolitics. The contributions from the below authors provide a deeper understanding of unseen aspects of transboundary water governance, covering topics such as groundwater, virtual water and a detailed, non-binary understanding of conflict and cooperation. 

About the Authors:

Mark Zeitoun is a Professor of Water Security and Policy at the School of International Development, University of East Anglia and is the co-founder of UEA’s Water Security Research Centre, an interdisciplinary unit within UEA that addresses “the need to understand the physical and social drivers and dynamics of contemporary global water challenges.” His research focuses are theory and development of international transboundary water management; the impacts of urban water provisions after armed conflict, and water security and management in development, post-conflict, and conflict contexts. He has extensive experience in the Middle East and Africa.

Listen in!

Professor Mark Zeitoun discusses the many faces of water conflict and cooperation, his experiences developing the book and how water can be seen as more than “zero sum,” using examples of virtual water and the recent Grand Ethiopian Dam (GERD) conflicts along the Nile.

Naho Mirumachi is a senior lecturer at King’s College London’s Department of Geography and the convener of King’s Water Research Hub, an interdisciplinary collaborative research group within King’s that focuses on water, environment, and development. Her research centers on the politics of governance, particularly in developing country contexts and the role of discourse and inequalities in water allocation. She holds extensive experience in south and southeast Asia, and southern and eastern Africa. She is the author of Transboundary Water Politics in the Developing World and served as lead author on freshwater policy for the 2019 UN Environment GEO-6 report.

Listen in!

Naho Mirumachi‘s podcast covers ways to engage in the politics of water and poses a discussion of ways to envision alternative water arrangements that can serve to be transformative and more equitable.

Jereon Warner is an Associate Professor of Disaster Studies and Research Coordinator with the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University  Centre (WUR). His work focuses on transboundary water conflict and governance, hydrological disaster risk and its politics, and an engagement with security framing to invoke exceptional measures (securitisation, catastrophisation). He led a 2-year European Horizon 2020 project on urban disasters and cultures, EDUCEN, and a Brazilian CAPES scholarship on cultures of disaster. Jeroen has published and co-published several books, including: The Politics of Water (with Kai Wegerich), Flood Planning, Multi-Stakeholder Platforms for Integrated Water Management

Listen in!

Jereon Warner shares his insights on transboundary on the La Plata River Basin. Water conflicts across nations such as Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina are complex and emerge from a variety of historically driven contexts:


“The authors of this volume placed political, social, and moral issues at the forefront of water governance studies. Well-meaning efforts toward transboundary water cooperation have often fizzled out throughout the world because of the premature pursuit of an overly technocratic approach. Without prior hydro-diplomacy capable of articulating underlying fears, scientific modeling alone achieves little. This book points negotiators and scholars in the right direction.” – Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and Former Minister of Water Resources

“The case for transboundary water governance is easy enough to accept, but an adequate level of cooperation is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. This makes Zeitoun, Mirumachi, and Warner’s critical analysis a must read for anyone concerned about the looming global water crisis and the frightening consequences of global warming.” – Danilo Türk, Former President of the Republic of Slovenia and Chairman of the Global High Level Panel on Water and Peace (2015-2017)

“Everyone speaks about water conflicts. This book is about their transformation. Mark Zeitoun, Naho Mirumachi, and Jeroen Warner offer a hands-on transformative analysis approach that takes the reader on an eye-opening journey from understanding the manifold layers of water conflict to identifying innovative resolution pathways for change. A must read for all those who care about equitable and sustainable transboundary water governance.” – Eileen Hofstetter,

Innovative Feature

The book highlights collaborative efforts facilitated through the authors and the London Water Research Group extending across the water world, with insights from the below water scholars and practitioners, with in-text reflections and key points amongst the chapters.

  • Alexis Carles: The tactics of non-hegemons I: Botswana in the Okavango basin
  • Ana Elisa Casão:
    • How power is used to maintain and to transform the Nile basin status quo
    • Knowledge, discourse, and agenda; Production of alternatives assists the transformation of the Nile status quo
  • Ahmet Conker:
    • Politics of scale in the Euphrates and Tigris basin
  • Mattia Grandi: Rescaling for transformation in the Omo Turkana Basin
  • Francesca Greco:
    • The hydropolitical cycle as part of the hydro-social cycle
    • Co-existing cooperation and conflict on the Disi aquifer: The importance of considering virtual water
  • Stephanie Hawkins: IWL and ideational power: working within the structures of colonial legacy
  • Todd Jarvis:
    • The tricky task of quantifying sustainable groundwater use: How to live with the uncertainty
    • The even trickier task of quantifying transboundary groundwater: More data sharing and adaptive management required
  • Matt Kirkegaard: Popular conflict transformation on the Uruguay River
  • Nathanial Matthews: How the political economy of dams influences trade-offs
  • Filippo Menga: The tactics of non-hegemons II: Tajikistan in the Amu Darya basin
  • Farhad Mukhtarov: The hegemony of river basin organizations: A cautionary tale
  • Arun Singh: Treaties as instruments of control in the destructive cooperation between Nepal and India
  • Kimberley Thomas: Analyzing borders seriously: The river-border complex
  • Mara Tignino: Benefit-sharing in the Senegal River basin

International network of water professionals, activists and scholars

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