WPS GLOBAL EARLY WARNING TOOL 2023 ANNUAL REVIEW
The entire globe was awash in water-related stories in 2023. In many places – such as South America, Southern Europe, and the Middle East – drought had crippling effects on local populations and economies. In other places, such as the United States and China, it was flooding that tended to dominate the headlines. As La Niña weather patterns gave way to El Niño, many places – such as the Horn of Africa – flipped from overly dry to overly wet conditions or vice versa. Many regions, of course, wrestled with extremes of both flood and drought. High temperatures smashed records throughout the world in 2023, exacerbating drought, turbo-charging storms, and creating conditions ripe for the spread of apocalyptic wildfires.
This was also a big year for global water politics. In March, the United Nations hosted the first UN Water Conference in a generation. One of the principal outputs of the conference was a Water Action Agenda that included over 800 commitments by governments, businesses, NGOs and others to address the many water challenges the world currently faces — from floods and droughts to lack of clean drinking water and sanitation. WRI found that while more than one-quarter of the commitments are potential game-changers, the rest may not be strong enough to create substantial change in the world.
This year was also noteworthy for water-related violence. In early June, the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine was destroyed, unleashing a wave of flooding that inundated downstream towns, industrial sites, and farmland. Beginning in October, bombing and a fuel embargo in Gaza left citizens without sources of clean drinking water, prompting growing alarm. In late May, acrimony over a shared river prompted Iranian and Afghan border guards to exchange gunfire, with several people reportedly killed and wounded. The Pacific Institute’s Water Conflict Chronology showed a record increase in water-related violence. With extremely high water stress projected to impact an additional 1 billion people by 2050, urgent action to promote sustainable and cooperative water use in the years ahead is even more essential.
This review highlights the most impactful water security events in 2023.
2023 Year in Review
- Morocco: Drought has left dams throughout the country only 23% full on average. The Al-Massira Reservoir which supplies Casablanca, was completely depleted as of November.
- Libya: Storm Daniel dumped large amounts of rain on eastern Libya in mid-September, killing at least 2,000 people.
- Horn of Africa: The region entered 2023 facing a sixth straight season of drought – the most severe in recent history. As El Niño replaced La Niña, the region flipped from unprecedented drought to devastating floods.
- Sudan: The conflict has caused over six million people to be displaced and the dire water and sanitation situation has contributed to a cholera outbreak.
- South Sudan: Continued impacts from flooding are leaving many inhabitants food insecure.
- Southern Africa: El Niño-related rainfall deficits are expected in key cropping areas during the crucial December-January planting period, impacting crop yields in 2024.
- Gaza: Bombing and a fuel embargo are leaving citizens without sources of clean drinking water, prompting growing alarm.
- Syria: Severe drought continues, with millions facing loss of livelihoods and access to water, food and electricity.
- Iraq: Drought conditions threaten at least seven million people in Iraq.
- Iran: Severe drought continues, impacting people in both urban and rural areas.
- Iran and Afghanistan: In late May, Iranian and Afghan border guards exchanged gunfire, with several people reportedly killed and wounded. The incident came amidst an escalation of tensions over Iran’s water rights regarding the Helmand River.
- Afghanistan: The World Food Programme estimated that 20 million people – nearly half of the population – were acutely food-insecure between November 2022 and March 2023.
- Afghanistan and Central Asia: Afghanistan is digging the Qosh Tepa Irrigation Canal, which will – if completed – divert a considerable amount of water away from Central Asia.
- Tunisia: In late 2023, drought exacerbates issues of unemployment and soaring prices.
- Pakistan: An August 2023 report by Islamic Relief tallied the tremendous losses and other impacts of the record-breaking flooding of 2022.
- India: A tributary of the Ganges, which flows through New Delhi, saw record flooding in mid-July. Further south, rainfall deficits reignited tensions between the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- Philippines: Early in the year, heavy flooding destroyed homes, infrastructure, crops and fishing boats.
- China: In mid-July, China’s Xinjiang Province was hit by record 52.2-degree Celsius (125 degree Fahrenheit) heat.
- Thailand: As of July, rainfall in 2023 was 28% below the same period last year and was projected to decrease even further over the next two years with the onset of El Niño weather patterns.
- Ukraine: Ongoing impacts of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam threaten irrigation, fishing, and drinking water.
- Western Europe: Dry conditions continued into 2023, failing to replenish groundwater and surface water resources. In July, Southern Europe and North Africa saw extreme heat which created conditions ripe for the spread of wildfires. Later in the year there were protests in France over water basins being built for agricultural irrigation, while in Spain a combination of drought, higher temperatures, growing agricultural water demand, and poor governance curtailed access to clean water in several towns in the southern part of the country.
- South America: Earlier in 2023, it was reported that droughts in Argentina and Uruguay had decimated crops, while Chile was dealing with extensive wildfires. In late-September, parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia were forecast to see temperatures exceed 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). This came at the tail end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere!
- Uruguay: In July, it was reported that the worst drought in 44 years, coupled with water resources mismanagement, had severely limited access to clean water in Montevideo, home to 60% of the country’s population.
- Argentina: In July, the IMF projected that Argentina’s economy would contract by 2.5%, largely due to crippling drought and its impact on the agricultural sector.
- Bolivia: In September it was reported that water levels at Lake Titicaca – South America’s largest – were falling precipitously due to an unprecedented winter heat wave.
- Amazon Basin: Historic drought is threatening livelihoods across the basin.
- Panama Canal: Drought has disrupted trade on the Panama Canal.
- Mexico: In mid-July, over 40% of Mexico was in moderate to extreme drought, leading to crop losses, water shortages and higher food prices. Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco as a Category 5 storm in late October 2023, producing extensive damage across the resort city.
- United States: Storms in the western US brought record snowfalls last winter, easing water scarcity problems in California, but also bringing flooding. In the Colorado River Basin, an agreement was reached in May to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water by 2026.
- New Zealand: Cyclone Gabrielle, which hit the North Island’s northernmost and eastern regions in mid-February 2023, inflicted widespread destruction and was described by the prime minister as the biggest natural disaster to hit New Zealand this century.
- Global Food Prices: Global food prices continued to come down from a peak of 159.3 points in March 2022. As of October 2023, the FAO Food Price Index stood at 120.6.
- Global Temperatures: In early July, the planet’s average daily temperature soared to levels unseen in modern record-keeping. In mid-October, The Washington Post reported that global temperatures in September were so high, they were “mysterious”.
- Global Flooding: In mid-September, major flooding was reported across 10 countries in a matter of just 12 days.
MOROCCO: RESERVOIRS BADLY DEPLETED
Drought has left dams throughout the country only 23% full, on average, with some dams, such as the Al-Massira which supplies Casablanca, completely depleted as of November. Years of drought have pushed Morocco to speed up plans for building desalination plants. New plants for Casablanca and Nador are scheduled for 2027. The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts emerging conflict in Oriental, Morocco.
LIBYA: DEVASTATING FLOODING
Storm Daniel dumped large amounts of rain on eastern Libya in mid-September, killing more than 5,000. An additional 10,000 were reported missing in the storm’s immediate aftermath. The heavy rainfall caused the collapse of two dams, sending water flowing into already inundated areas. The city of Derna suffered the worst of the devastation. The rain was “the result of a very strong low-pressure system that brought catastrophic flooding to Greece [the week prior] and then moved into the Mediterranean before developing into a tropical-like cyclone known as a medicane.” The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts emerging conflict in Benghazi, Libya and continued conflict in Az Zawiyah, Libya.
HORN OF AFRICA: EL NIÑO BRINGS DROUGHT RECOVERY AND DEADLY FLOODING
The region entered 2023 facing a sixth straight season of drought – the most severe in recent history. As El Niño replaced La Niña, the region flipped from unprecedented drought to devastating floods. In late November, NPR reported that “this year, the rains have not stopped. The widespread flooding, which has killed nearly 300 people in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, has been described as the worst in decades by the United Nations and others, exacerbating an already precarious situation in many parts of East Africa.” The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts ongoing and emerging conflict in parts of the Horn of Africa. The WPS short-term conflict forecast predicts an extreme increase of conflict in Oromia, Ethiopia.
SUDAN: CHOLERA OUTBREAK
Months of civil war in Sudan have caused massive loss of life and damage. Over six million people have been displaced, and there have been nearly 5,200 suspected cases of cholera as of early December due to water, sanitation and hygiene issues. The cholera outbreak continues to worsen, with a 70% surge in cases over the past three weeks. The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts continued conflict in parts of Sudan.
SOUTH SUDAN: CHRONIC CLIMATE IMPACTS
Flooding in South Sudan has displaced 1 million people. “Parts of the country have been underwater now for four years. Other areas, two or three [years]. Some 15 percent of the country is submerged year-round, as opposed to 5 percent several years ago.” Many people are subsisting on a diet of water lilies, with long-term consequences for their health. The WPS long-term forecast does not cover South Sudan, but the short-term forecast predicts continued conflict in parts of South Sudan.
SOUTHERN AFRICA: EL NIÑO TO BRING LOWER RAINFALL
In mid-October, UN OCHA reported that “according to the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF), most of the Southern Africa region is likely to receive below normal rainfall during the October-December period. Dry conditions and above normal temperatures are expected in key cropping areas, during the crucial December-January planting period, impacting yields in 2024.” The WPS long-term forecast predicts ongoing and emerging conflict in parts of Southern Africa.
TUNISIA: DIRE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS DRIVING MIGRATION TO EUROPE
Towns such as Diyar al Hajjaj are emptying out as a result of dire economic conditions, including joblessness and soaring prices. Drought is compounding the problem. “Water rationing has been introduced after four years of a severe drought, which has dried up reservoirs and made a bad situation even worse for many people. “Our water has become salty, and people can’t make money from their land anymore,” said Sleh Ben Ali, 47.” The WPS long-term forecast does not predict conflict in parts of Tunisia.
GAZA: GROWING DRINKING WATER CRISIS
On 7 October 2023, Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel, significantly escalating the long-standing conflict between the two groups. The retaliatory air strikes by Israel have left Gaza Strip residents without access to safe drinking water, and some are relying on contaminated aquifer supplies. In mid-November, NBC reported that over 44,000 cases of diarrhea had been documented in Gaza since mid-October, a sharp increase compared to previous years. The WPS long-term forecast predicts continued conflict. The short-term forecast predicts an extreme increase in conflict events in the West Bank, and a moderate increase in Gaza.
SYRIA: SEVERE DROUGHT CONTINUES
Syria entered 2023 facing violence and a severe drought, with devastating earthquakes compounding the misery. In late August, it was reported that “more than five million people in Syria who depend on river water were directly impacted by the burgeoning water crisis as hundreds of kilometres of agricultural land risked total drought. At the same time, with two dams in northern Syria facing imminent closure, about three million people risked losing access to electricity.” The short-term forecast predicts continued conflict in Syria.
IRAQ: SEVERE DROUGHT CONTINUES
According to a report published in August, “large swathes of farmland, fisheries, power production and drinking water sources [in Iraq] have been depleted of water. In the Ninewa governorate, wheat production is expected to go down by 70 percent because of the drought, while in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq production is expected to decrease by half. Some families in Anbar who have no access to river water are spending up to USD80 a month on water.” Drought conditions are threatening at least seven million people in Iraq. The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts continued conflict across Iraq.
IRAN: SEVERE DROUGHT CONTINUES
Iran, along with Iraq and Syria, continues to suffer through devastating drought. This drought, which began in 2020, is reportedly considered “the second worst on record anywhere in the world.” In July, extreme heat and water shortages forced people to line up in the streets with jerrycans after taps ran empty in parts of Tehran. The drought is also forcing many people to leave villages in rural areas, as seven provinces, including Sistan and Balochistan, South Khorasan, Khorasan Razavi, Kerman, Hormozgan, Khuzestan and Isfahan, have been significantly impacted by water shortages. The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts continued and emerging conflict in parts of Iran.
IRAN & AFGHANISTAN: HEAVY GUNFIRE EXCHANGE
In late May, Iranian and Afghan border guards exchanged gunfire, with several people reportedly killed and wounded. The incident comes amidst an escalation of tensions over Iran’s water rights from the Helmand River. Conditions are growing increasingly challenging for local inhabitants, as repeated droughts and water resources mismanagement have parched the region. In late October, the Iranian regime claimed that the Taliban had still not given Iran its share of water from the Helmand River.
AFGHANISTAN: DROUGHT CONTINUES
Afghanistan is also suffering from three years of severe drought. The World Food Programme estimated that 20 million people – nearly half of the population – were acutely food-insecure between November 2022 and March 2023. In early December, IFRC reported that “two thirds of Afghanistan’s population (28.8 million people) are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as the country enters its third consecutive year of drought and the second year of crippling economic decline.” The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts continued and emerging conflict across Afghanistan.
AFGHANISTAN: CONCERN IN CENTRAL ASIA OVER CANAL
Afghanistan is digging the Qosh Tepa Irrigation Canal, which will – if completed – divert a considerable amount of water away from Central Asia. “With a length of 285 kilometers and a width of some 100 meters, experts believe it could draw a significant portion of the Amu Darya’s flow while irrigating 550,000 hectares of land.” Two downstream and water-stressed countries – Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – are facing a potentially large impact, with a Turkmenistan-based hydrologist calling the project “not a problem, but a disaster.” According to Mohammed Faizee, former deputy foreign minister under the previous Afghan government, if the canal is not properly managed, it could lead to conflict similar to the one with Iran over the Helmand River.
PAKISTAN: TREMENDOUS LOSSES FROM 2022 FLOODING
An August 2023 report by Islamic Relief tallied the tremendous losses and detailed other impacts of the record-breaking flooding of 2022. “The floods killed over 1,700 people, displaced a further 7.9 million from their homes and caused $30 billion USD (£23 billion) worth of damage to infrastructure, livelihoods and the economy. Over 1.7 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of crops were wiped out, more than 2 million homes damaged or destroyed, and over 800,000 livestock perished.” Researchers who interviewed people in the affected areas found that “40% of the children they surveyed had stunted growth and 25% were underweight as families struggle to access food and healthcare. About 80% of mothers reported sickness among children, with outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria and dengue fever increasing.” CNN reported in August that “one year after catastrophic floods devastated swathes of Pakistan, some 4 million children in the South Asian nation remain without access to safe water.” The WPS long-term forecast currently predicts continued conflict across Pakistan.
INDIA: FLOODING IN GANGES BASIN, RAINFALL DEFICITS IN KARNATAKA AND TAMIL NADU
A tributary of the Ganges, which flows through New Delhi, saw record flooding in mid-July. The flooding left death and destruction in its wake. “The Yamuna, which flows about 855 miles (1,376 kilometers) south from the Himalayas through several states, rose to 208.57 meters (about 684 feet) – the highest mark ever, officials said.” Meanwhile, rainfall deficits in 2023 reignited tensions between the Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in southern India. The two states wrestled in court over the summer over how much upstream Karnataka should release to downstream Tamil Nadu, with Karnataka initially complying but then refusing to release additional water. The WPS long-term forecast predicts conflict in many parts of India.
PHILIPPINES: destructive FLOODS
Daily heavy rainfall events in late December 2022 and January 2023 left several dozen dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The rains destroyed homes, infrastructure, crops and fishing boats. The WPS long-term forecast predicts conflict in many parts of the Philippines.
CHINA: EXTREME HEAT AND FLOODING
Over the spring and summer months, several Asian countries contended with record-breaking heat. In mid-July, China’s Xinjiang Province was hit by record 52.2-degree Celsius heat. In late July and early August, Beijing recorded its heaviest rainfall in 140 years, as the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri deluged the region. In early September, relentless rain associated with Typhoon Haikui caused over 100 landslides and trapped about 1,360 residents in floodwaters in southern China.
THAILAND: Low Rainfall
As of July, rainfall in 2023 was 28% below the same period last year and was projected to decrease even further over the next two years with the onset of El Niño weather patterns. “The dire outlook has prompted Thai authorities to ask farmers to restrict rice planting to a single crop to conserve water.”
UKRAINE: DESTRUCTION OF DAM
In early June, the Kakhovka Dam was destroyed, unleashing a wave of flooding that inundated downstream towns, industrial sites, and farmland. The destruction of the dam killed people and livestock, destroyed livelihoods, poisoned freshwater supplies, and threatens the region’s ecology. The reservoir supplied drinking and irrigation water to the region and protected the region against flooding. Both Ukrainian- and Russian-controlled areas were affected, including Crimea. The ongoing impacts of the destruction of the dam threatens irrigation, fishing, and drinking water sources, as thousands of people are relying on water trucks for drinking water. In mid-October, a report by the Ukrainian government and the United Nations estimated the cost of the damage at about $14 billion. In early December, it was reported that Ukraine was conducting “a world-first war crimes investigation into allegations that Russia committed ‘ecocide’ by destroying the dam, a case [it] intends to take to the International Criminal Court (ICC).” Destroying water infrastructure – whether in offence or defense – is clearly forbidden by international humanitarian law.
WESTERN EUROPE: Widespread water issues
France, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, and parts of Italy and Germany all experienced lower than average rain and snowfalls last winter, failing to replenish groundwater and surface water resources, already low from droughts in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. In March, it was announced that Europe had endured its second warmest winter on record. In July, Southern Europe and North Africa saw extreme heat which created conditions ripe for the spread of wildfires. Dozens of people died from the fires, which consumed thousands of acres of land in places like Algeria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Other countries in the region, meanwhile, experienced heavy storms and flooding. In mid-September, protests were reported in France between environmental groups and farmers over groundwater pumping to fill mega-reservoirs used for irrigation. One thousand people marched on Paris to protest the environmental impact of these reservoirs. Earlier, in March, some of these protests turned violent. A combination of drought, higher temperatures, growing agricultural water demand, and poor governance curtailed access to clean water in several towns in southern Spain. In mid-October, the New York Times reported that “residents of Pozoblanco and 22 other villages in the country’s south have had to get their drinking water from tankers since April, when the reservoir serving the area dried up.” Not only are the residents left reliant on deliveries of drinking water from tanker trucks, the remaining available water in the region, used for bathing and household use, is of poor quality, raising serious health concerns. The impacts of drought are also making the agriculture and livestock sector less viable. In late November, authorities in Catalonia announced that Barcelona may need to have freshwater shipped in by boat. “Catalonia is suffering its worst drought on record with reservoirs that provide water for about 6 million people, including Spain’s second-biggest city, Barcelona, filled to just 18% of their capacity.”
SOUTH AMERICA: DROUGHT, EXTREME HEAT, AND WILDFIRES
In March, it was reported that the worst drought in over 60 years had decimated crops in both Argentina and Uruguay. Chile, meanwhile, was experiencing the deadliest wildfire season in a decade. Argentina and parts of Brazil were also suffering through a blistering heatwave. Argentina is a top exporter of both soy and corn, and it was estimated that the country could see up to $15 billion in lost export earnings this year. In late-September (end of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere), parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia were forecast to see temperatures exceed 43 degrees Celcius (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Heat waves blanketed other parts of the Southern Hemisphere as well, including Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa.
ARGENTINA: Drought impacts economy
In July, the International Monetary Fund projected that Argentina’s economy would contract by 2.5%, largely due to crippling drought and its impact on the agricultural sector.
URUGUAY: Drought limits access to clean water
In mid-July, the worst drought in 44 years, coupled with water resources mismanagement, had severely limited access to clean water in Montevideo, home to 60% of the country’s population. Near-empty reservoirs were delivering water that may have been too salty to drink and which may have contained dangerous concentrations of toxic chemicals.
BOLIVIA: WORLD’S HIGHEST NAVIGABLE LAKE IS DRYING OUT
In September, water levels at Lake Titicaca – South America’s largest – were falling precipitously due to an unprecedented winter heat wave. “More than three million people live around the lake, relying on its waters to fish, farm and attract tourists who boost the economy of an otherwise marginalized region.”
AMAZON RIVER: SEVERE DROUGHT
A drought has caused Amazon River levels to fall to historic lows. The Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon in Brazil reached a 121 year low in mid-October. In a region dependent on the Amazon for food, water, economic activities, and transportation, the drought has left communities in the region stranded. Ecuadorian towns in the Amazon are experiencing blackouts due to decreased energy supply from the main hydroelectric powerplant in the region.
PANAMA CANAL: DISRUPTED TRADE
A drought has disrupted trade on the Panama Canal, limiting the number of ships that can pass through.
MEXICO: DROUGHT and HURRICANE OTIS
In mid-July, over 40% of Mexico was in moderate to extreme drought, leading to crop losses, water shortages and higher food prices. As a result, and in a sign of desperation, the government was reportedly turning to cloud seeding. In late October, Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco as a Category 5 hurricane, causing catastrophic damage. Otis was noteworthy for its extremely rapid intensification, likely made possible by climate change. “The hurricane’s intensification was among the fastest forecasters have ever seen: its top-end windspeed increased by 115 mph in 24 hours. Only one other storm, Hurricane Patricia in 2015, exceeded Otis’ rapid intensification in East Pacific records, with a 120-mph increase in 24 hours.”
UNITED STATES: A VARIETY OF water ISSUES
Drought conditions across much of the American West improved last Winter with two atmospheric rivers restoring California’s ‘water storage to 96% of the historical average for this time of year’, but also causing flooding in the state. In the Colorado River Basin, an agreement was reached in May to conserve at least 3 million acre-feet of water by 2026. In late July, ocean temperatures off the coast of Florida reached 38 degrees Celcius (101.1 degrees Fahrenheit), which could be a global record. Also in July, the southwestern city of Phoenix endured the hottest month for any US city ever. “The 31 consecutive days at 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celcius) or above broke the previous record by 18 days.” Meanwhile, in the Midwest, corn and soybean conditions were at their worst since 1988 due to a stubborn drought. Significant drought in the Mississippi Basin has led to lower flows down the river, allowing saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to travel up the river. Not only is saltwater a direct threat to potable water supplies, but it also threatens to corrode lead piping that delivers potable water to peoples’ homes. Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and there is no safe level of exposure to lead.
NEW ZEALAND: CYCLONE GABRIELLE
This cyclone, which hit the North Island’s northernmost and eastern regions in mid-February 2023, inflicted widespread destruction and was described by the prime minister as the biggest natural disaster to hit New Zealand this century. The cyclone left at least 11 dead and 2,200 unaccounted for in the days following the disaster. The country’s finance minister estimated that the total cost to the government could be similar to the $8.42 billion it spent rebuilding the city of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake.
GLOBAL FOOD PRICES
In March 2022, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food Price Index reached 159.3 points – a record since its inception in 1990. Since March 2022, food prices have continued to come down. As of October 2023, the FAO Food Price Index stood at 120.6. Nevertheless, high food prices continue to exact a heavy toll on vulnerable populations worldwide.
In early July, the planet’s average daily temperature soared to levels unseen in modern record-keeping. Temperature records were shattered across the Northern Hemisphere, including in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Records were also shattered in the Southern Hemisphere, where temperatures topped 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in Chile in August, which is midwinter there. Also in the Southern Hemisphere, the growth of ice in winter has been stunted, setting a record low “by a wide margin”. In mid-October, The Washington Post reported that global temperatures in September were so high, they were mysterious. “No single factor — not human-caused global warming, not a burgeoning El Niño weather pattern — can immediately assume credit for such a drastic diversion from anything humans have ever seen before, scientists said. It is so far outside the realm of what has occurred, it creates a new conundrum that will take time for research to unpack.” The spike in temperatures could be evidence that climate change is accelerating. But it could also be due to wholly different factors, such as declining air pollution (pollutants such as sulfur dioxide block sunlight and cool the planet). Time will tell.
In mid-September, major flooding was reported across 10 countries in a matter of just 12 days. In Europe, Storm Daniel devastated parts of Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria, while a separate storm – Storm Dana – walloped Spain. Storm Daniel then went on to devastate Libya (see separate story above). In Asia, two typhoons – Saola and Haikui – hit the region within days of each other, “causing widespread damage in the self-governing island of Taiwan, the city Hong Kong and other parts of southern China including Shenzhen.” In Brazil, the state of Rio Grande do Sul saw its worst flooding in 40 years. In the western United States, massive flooding disrupted the popular Burning Man festival, stranding tens of thousands of attendees, while in the eastern United States, flooding in Massachusetts damaged hundreds of homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
ABOUT WPS AND ITS QUARTERLY ANALYSES
Water, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnership. The WPS Partnership offers a platform where actors from national governments of developing countries and the global development, diplomacy, defense, and disaster relief sectors can identify potential water-related conflict hotspots before violence erupts, begin to understand the local context, prioritize opportunities for water interventions, and undertake capacity development and dialogue activities.
The Long Term Global Early Warning Tool. Our Global Early Warning Tool provides the initial step in a multi-step process, employing machine-learning to predict likely hood of conflict over the coming 12 months in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia. It does this on the basis of 15-20 global indicators that serve as model inputs. These indicators were selected as most significant in predicting conflict from among over 200 indicators tested. We define conflict as one that produces 10 or more deaths in any given second subnational administrative unit over a 12-month period. Generally speaking, our predictions of ongoing conflict are a lot more accurate than our predictions of emerging conflict. We continue to work on improving our model and extending its geographic coverage. So far it has captured 86% of future conflicts, successfully forecasting more than 9 in 10 “ongoing conflicts” and 6 in 10 “emerging conflicts”.
The Short Term Global Early Warning Tool. We also predict the intensity and direction of conflict events over the next two months. This sheds extra detail on areas experiencing conflict. Our predictions have been on average within 2 events of the actual events. Though the quarterly update focuses mainly on the 12-month forecast, information from the short-term forecast is also included.
Quarterly analyses. We are publishing quarterly analyses to accompany our updated maps. These quarterly analyses flag some of the hotspot areas we are tracking and describe what journalists and other actors are seeing on the ground. While we are primarily concerned with water- and climate-related conflict, the tool is designed to forecast any type of violent conflict (and can therefore be used by a variety of users interested in conflict).
Our multistep process. Early warning is very important, especially given limits to the number of problems that national and international actors can track and address at one time. Our Global Early Warning Tool ensures that emerging conflicts can get the attention they need, early enough that potential risks can still be mitigated. Our regional- and local-level tools then support the next steps in the process and can be used to verify (or disprove) global model predictions, better understand regional and local conflict dynamics, and begin to identify opportunities for mitigating risk. WPS partners offer training and capacity development to global-, national-, and local-level actors to help them better manage risks. We can also help build constructive dialogues among parties to disputes (and other key stakeholders) that can engender water-related cooperation, peacebuilding, and design of conflict-sensitive interventions.
Do you want to learn more about how the Global Early Warning Tool works or how you can use it yourself? The WPS partnership has recently launched the first two modules of a free online e-learning module. Module 2 is dedicated to the function, generation and application of the Global Tool, including a practical walk-through to explore the tools’ capabilities yourself. You can find the course here: Module 2: The Global Early Warning Tool.
 The trade-off for this high recall is low precision for emerging conflicts. Around 80% of all emerging conflict forecasts represent false positives, that is, instances where conflict was forecast but did not actually occur. Ongoing conflicts are much easier to accurately predict and have both high recall and high precision (<1% were false positives). We continue to work on improving the early warning model and expect that future versions will be able to better predict conflict.
Icons by Flaticon.com