The drums of water wars have been banging in the Middle East for decades. From local journalists to taxi drivers and heads of state, many see these wars as inevitable. The argument runs that with climate change and booming populations, there isn’t going to be enough water for everyone. What follows is intuitively simple: when people run out of water, they reach for a Kalashnikov or summon an air-strike. Yet, historical records show that full-blown war over water resources has not taken place in the Middle East, nor anywhere else in the world. Most conflicts over water are subnational, and water shortages are rarely their sole motivation.
Looking ahead, it is clear that climate change and population growth are making the Middle East’s water woes more urgent. However, this does not mean that countries in the region will run out of water nor go to war over water. In fact, there are reasons to be optimistic. Individuals, communities and countries can – and already do – address water scarcity in multiple ways.