Water in war: Understanding the impacts of armed conflict on water resources and their management

Juliane Schillinger*, Gül Özerol, Sermin Güven-Griemert, Michiel Heldeweg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
253 Downloads (Pure)


Armed conflict has the potential to disrupt water systems that are crucial to environmental and human wellbeing. Yet there is no comprehensive overview of scientific evidence on the impact of armed conflicts on water resources and their management. This paper assesses the relevant scientific evidence through a systematic literature review. We discern conceptual, empirical, and methodological approaches adopted in the reviewed publications and synthesize the overarching research results. Common research topics across the body of literature include the role of water resources in armed conflicts, either as a casualty or as a weapon used by conflict parties, and the implications of armed conflict on water resources management, such as basic service provision and water governance. The analysis also pinpoints the research field's focus on empirical studies based on a small number of cases, and highlights a lack of conceptual engagement with the notion of armed conflict. Future research on water resources and their management in conflict settings needs to be more transparent on conceptual frameworks and assumptions to facilitate knowledge integration across different studies. This article is categorized under: Planning Water > Engineering Water Water Governance > Human Water.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1480
Number of pages19
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number6
Early online date27 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Armed conflict
  • Service provision
  • Water governance
  • Water management
  • Water resources


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