This report explores some of the thorniest water crises taking place across the developing world. In southern Iraq, severe water quality problems have triggered social unrest and violent protests. Recent droughts in India have prompted an exodus of farmers from the countryside in Maharashtra and dried up the reservoirs serving the city of Chennai. Across the African Sahel, there are violent conflicts between farmers and pastoralists over water and productive land resources. In Yemen, urban water systems have been targets of persistent attacks during the ongoing conflict in the country.

Drawing on the report’s six in-depth case studies — from Iraq, Iran, India, the African Sahel, Central America and Yemen — as well as other recent research, the authors identify strategies to reduce water-related security risks. These solutions are organized into four broad categories: natural resources, science and engineering approaches; political and legal tools; economic and financial tools; and policy and governance strategies.

The framework presented in this report provides decision-makers with options for tailoring solution sets to unique water challenges. It is intended for global development, diplomacy, defense and disaster response experts, as well as for national- and river basin-level decision-makers charged with addressing natural resource–based conflict, migration and other forms of insecurity.

This report is research for action. It provides the evidence, examples and solution-oriented analysis that decision-makers need to avert water crises around the world. As the costs of inaction rise, policymakers should work to overcome barriers to implementation by increasing political will and recognizing the benefits of improved water resources management, drought response, flood prevention and access to safe, reliable and affordable water for all.