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Relative likelihood of hydro-political interactions

Tensions over freshwater use and management in international river basins are one of the main concerns in political relations. They may exacerbate existing tensions, increase regional instability and social unrest. Hydro-political interactions are here defined as episodes of cooperation or conflict between countries over transboundary water resources. The probability index presented in this map is based on past hydro-political issues in international river basins and a selection of biophysical and socioeconomic indicators (for the period 1997-2012). Areas are more (red) or less (blue) likely to experience transboundary water-related issues. A higher likelihood identifies areas where hydro-political interactions are more probable, due to lack of water supply and/or human pressure in a more vulnerable institutional and socioeconomic context. This data driven index can help policy makers identify areas where cooperation over water should be actively pursued to avoid possible tensions, especially under changing environmental conditions.

RCoE Action:

Farinosi, F., Giupponi, C., Reynaud, A., Ceccherini, G., Carmona-Moreno, C., De Roo, A., Gonzalez-Sanchez, D., Bidoglio, G. (2018). An innovative approach to the assessment of hydro-political risk: A spatially explicit, data driven indicator of hydro-political issues. Global Environmental Change, 52, 286–313.


Although this index does not give information about the degree of cooperation or conflict associated with the specific interaction, it identifies the areas of possible hydro-political risk that would be best addressed through a cooperative action. No distinction was made between past episodes of cooperation and dispute over water. They were used collectively as water interactions, a measure of the magnitude of the associated water issue. This was motivated by the fact that water disputes had virtually never ended in violent conflicts, at least in the most recent historical eras, and by the consideration that the classification of positive (cooperative) and negative (conflictive) interactions in the event databases has often been arbitrary and ambiguous.

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