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JSPES, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 2010)
pp. 23-44

Rivalry over Water Resources as a Potential Cause of Conflict in Asia

K.R. Bolton

Academy of Social and Political Research

Rival: “From L. rivalis ‘a rival’; originally, ‘one who uses the same stream’ (or ‘one on the opposite side of the stream’), from rivus ‘brook’.”(1)

Just how apt the Latin etymology of our English words “rival” and “rivalry” are as having derived from one’s relationship with water might soon be seen in conflicts over water resources that will be particularly acute in the Asiatic region and will directly impact upon states from Russia to New Zealand and Australia. While much attention is given to the problem of “peak oil”, the geopolitical implications of water shortages are not as generally recognised. Yet despite the major dislocations that could be caused by the alleged problems of the “peak oil” scenario for our industrial societies, there are alternative energy options; however there is no substitute for water, the very substance of life itself. This essay examines the possible scenarios for regional conflict over water resources in Asia, with emphasis on this region’s super- power, China.