Water: Conflict and Cooperation

Project overview

Project Leader

Main and assistant supervisors

Project Period

  • 2015 - 2021 

Project description

The dissertation project addresses the role of water for conflictual or peaceful interactions between non-state actors. Water is the single most important resource for human development with numerous uses through direct consumption, agriculture, sanitation or power generation, among others. Global demand for water is estimated to grow with 55 percent by the year 2050. Recent reports on 282 large water basins across the world, found that by 2050, 1.8 billion more people will be living in regions with at least moderate water stress; with Africa being affected the most. These regions or sub-regions include places that have witnessed several incidents of armed conflict and the same regions are also prone to future disputes. Resulting stress on water or river basins will not only affect agriculture and businesses, but, moreover, it will have sincere consequences for communities that already now lack sufficient water access.

This research uses geo-referenced conflict and water data, mostly covering Africa and the Middle East. A particular focus of this work lies in improving conflict analysis by utilizing insights from hydrology.  The research deals with water as a potential source for violent conflict between non-state groups, e.g. in communal disputes or fighting between rebel groups.  But the project also examines where water is used to cooperate peacefully.



  • Döring, S. (2020). From Bullets to Boreholes: A Disaggregated Analysis of Domestic Water Cooperation in Drought-prone Regions, Global Environmental Change, Volume 65, 102147.
  • Döring, S., (2020). Come rain, or come wells: How access to groundwater affects communal violence. Political Geography, Volume 76, 102073.
  • Grech-Madin, C., Döring, S., Kim, K., Swain, A. (2018). Negotiating Water across Levels: A Peace and Conflict “Toolbox” for Water Diplomacy. Journal of Hydrology, 559: 100-109

Working papers with conference presentations

Spillover of Communal Violence

Presented at:

  • ISA Annual Convention, Toronto, Canada, 2019
  • European Peace Science Conference, Verona, Italy, 2018

Sub-National Water Cooperation

Presented at:

  • International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding, Irvine, CA
  • Bi-Annual Conference of Peace Research in Sweden, Lund, Sweden, 2018
  • Sustain. Ecosystems Seminar (SIPRI and World Bank), Stockholm World Water Week, 2018
  • ISA Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA, 2018

Water Scarcity and Non-State Conflict

Presented at:

  • Development Studies Day, Uppsala, 2017
  • Mixed Methods Workshop (AFK Methoden), Mannheim, Germany, 2017
  • Conflict Research Society Annual Conference, Oxford, UK, 2017
  • European Peace Science Conference, Antwerp, Belgium, 2017
  • ISA Annual Convention, Baltimore, MD, 2017

Main financial support

This project is part of the Research School on International Water Cooperation in close partnership with the UNESCO Category II Centre on International Water Cooperation, hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).