Experts on the world's water situation issued a warning last week that within fifty years two billion people will face a severe water shortage. Actually, if one uses UNDP figures for current water usage and availability, the situation may be even more serious. Using the cutoff point of 2,000 cubic meters per person per annum as indicating a severe shortage, most of Africa and most of Asia will be in dire straits in less than twenty years. Exceptions might be the Congo basin, a few regions along the coast of West Africa, Bangladesh, and some areas of Southeast Asia. Much of Europe as well as Latin America outside the Amazon basin are also included in this situation.
Some of the world's most populous nations are already facing looming shortages. In northern China and in much of India the water table is dropping 1 to 2 meters per year due to increasing use of wells. Most of the world's rivers have been tapped for irrigation, and much of the planet's irrigated land is under threat from salinization.
Experts on conflict tell us that many of the wars in the new century could be fought over the distribution of water from shared river basins. Some 260 rivers are shared by more that one state. Potential disputes over the sharing of water exist in over half of these.
The situation is probably most grave in the region which is often the focus of Bible Prophecies-the Middle East. War could easily break out over shared rivers in the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, and Jordan valleys. Experts on the Middle East warn that any attempt by Turkey to cut off Euphrates or Tigris river waters to Syria or Iraq would provoke a major war. Both of these down river states are watching Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project with increasing apprehension. Israel's mining of the groundwater under the West Bank is one of the key issues standing in the way of a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.