WPS GLOBAL EARLY WARNING TOOL November 2023 QUARTERLY ANALYSIS
PLACES TO WATCH FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT
These are selected areas where the model predicts the likelihood of at least 10 fatalities in the next 12 months in a first subnational administrative unit that have linkages to water challenges. See complete story below.
- Libya: Storm Daniel dumped large amounts of rain on eastern Libya in mid-September, killing thousands of people.
- Horn of Africa: El Niño will bring drought recovery and heightened flood risk.
- Sudan: Six months into the conflict, six million people have been displaced and the dire water and sanitation situation has contributed to a cholera outbreak.
- South Sudan: Continued impacts from flooding leaves many people food insecure.
- Southern Africa: El Niño-related rainfall deficits are expected in key cropping areas during the December-January planting period, severely impacting crop yields in April 2024.
- Gaza: Bombing and fuel embargo are leaving citizens without sources of clean drinking water, prompting growing alarm.
- Iraq: In response to the 4-year drought and water security issues, Iraq has announced the construction of 36 new dams in 2024.
- 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.
- India: Rainfall deficits reignite tensions between the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
OTHER REGIONS AND ISSUES OF INTEREST
These are a few of the areas that are currently outside of the model's geographic scope or without a prediction for violent conflict above the threshold of 10 deaths over the next 12 months but have water-related challenges. We are also following certain issues of interest. See complete story below.
- Tunisia: A drought is compounding problems of joblessness and soaring prices.
- Ukraine: Ongoing impacts of the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam threaten irrigation, fishing, and drinking water.
- France: Protests continue over water basins built for agricultural irrigation.
- Spain: A combination of drought, higher temperatures, growing agricultural water demand, and poor governance has curtailed access to clean water in several towns in southern Spain.
- South America: In late-September, parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia were forecast to see temperatures exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). This at the tail end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Bolivia: Water levels at Lake Titicaca – South America’s largest – are falling precipitously due to an unprecedented winter heat wave.
- Amazon Basin: A historic drought threatens livelihoods across the region.
- Panama Canal: A drought has disrupted trade on the Panama Canal.
- Mexico: Hurricane Otis hit Acapulco as a Category 5 storm in late October 2023, knocking out all communication.
- United States: In mid-October, it was reported that saltwater creeping up the Mississippi River would likely not reach the city of New Orleans. But the city must scramble to protect itself from repeat threats in the future, which are more likely due to climate change.
- Global Temperatures: 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.
PLACES TO WATCH FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT
Libya: devastating FLOODING
Storm Daniel dumped large amounts of rain on eastern Libya in mid-September, killing at least 3,958 people. 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 predicts ongoing and emerging conflict in parts of Libya.
The images show the damage of the flooding in Derna, Libya - with much of the city covered in mud and debris. The image on the left is from before the flooding on August 25, 2023 and on the right is after the flooding on September 18, 2023. NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Horn of africa: el niÑo to bring drought recovery and heightened flood risk
In our last quarterly update, we reported that this year’s March-May rainy season brought relief to many areas of East Africa impacted by severe multi-year drought. Some of these same places were now being impacted by flooding. In early October, FEWS NET warned that “the impacts of heavy rain and floods on agricultural production, road and market infrastructure, and WASH are of greatest concern in riverine and low-lying areas in the eastern Horn of Africa; however, above-average rainfall is broadly expected to facilitate the gradual recovery from three-years of droughts in the rest of the Horn.” The WPS long-term forecast predicts ongoing and emerging conflict in parts of the Horn of Africa.
Southern Africa: el niÑo to bring higher temperatures and lower rainfall
In mid-September, a UN OCHA release noted that “El Niño-related climate variability is one of the strongest drivers impacting agricultural production in Southern Africa. It is usually characterized by above-average temperatures and below-normal rainfall during the November–April season. About 70 per cent of the region's population depends on rainfed agricultural production for food, income and employment. El Niño induced dry weather conditions are expected in key cropping areas, during the crucial December-January planting period, severely impacting crop yields in April 2024.” The WPS long-term forecast predicts ongoing and emerging conflict in parts of Southern Africa.
SUDAN: Cholera Outbreak
Six months of civil war in Sudan has caused massive loss of life and damage. Six million people have been displaced, and there have been almost 1,500 suspected cases of cholera due to water shortages and lack of sanitation services and water treatment. The WPS long-term forecast predicts continued conflict in parts of Sudan.
SOUTH SUDAN: Chronic climate impacts
Flooding in South Sudan displaced 1 million people in the previous years, but with a new water mass the size of Lake Michigan still covering their farmland, rampant government corruption and decreasing aid, people are feeling the harm of climate change. The WPS long-term forecast does not cover South Sudan, but the short-term forecast predicts continued conflict in parts of South Sudan.
Gaza: growing drinking water crisis
On October 7th, 2023, Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel, significantly escalating violence in the region. The initial attack and response killed at least 1,300 Israelis and 2,700 Palestinians. Palestinian deaths have since increased rapidly. 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 late October, CNN reported that “Israel has... allowed some water to flow through one of the three pipelines that run into Gaza, but experts say it covers only a tiny percentage of the enclave’s needs. Most of Gaza’s water comes from local sources – but the fuel required to pump and clean it is fast running out. As the water system collapses, some Gazans have been forced to drink dirty, salty water, sparking concerns of a health crisis and fears that people could start dying from dehydration.” There are concerns of broader conflict in the region, as Hezbollah, a Lebanese armed group, and Israel are bombing each other, and there are widespread protests in the region. The WPS long-term forecast for October uses data through the end of September and thus does not show this conflict on the tool. The short-term forecast does not have data for the Gaza Strip but does predict events in the West Bank.
Iraq: Crop faiilure and new DAm Construction
The drought in the region is continuing, challenging access to food. A study by the Norwegian Refugee Council found that a quarter of households surveyed in Iraq have experienced 90% wheat failure this season. In response to water security issues, the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources shared a plan to begin constructing 36 new dams in the country in 2024 in early October. The WPS long-term forecast predicts continued conflict across Iraq.
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.” The WPS long-term forecast predicts conflict in most of Afghanistan.
India: rainfall deficit reignites tensions between karnataka and tamil nadu
Rainfall deficits in 2023 have reignited tensions between the Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in southern India. The two states have been wrestling in court over how much upstream Karnataka should release to downstream Tamil Nadu, with Karnataka initially complying but now refusing to release additional water. Farmers and shop keepers in both states have staged protests, which appear mostly peaceful to date. In the past, such protests have turned violent. The WPS long-term forecast predicts conflict in many parts of India.
OTHER REGIONS AND ISSUES OF INTEREST
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” The WPS long-term forecast does not predict conflict in parts of Tunisia.
France: Protest over Reservoirs
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.
Spain: growing water scarcity
A combination of drought, higher temperatures, growing agricultural water demand, and poor governance has 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.
Ukraine: destruction of dam impacts continue
In early June, the Kakhovka Dam was destroyed, unleashing a wave of flooding that inundated downstream towns, industrial sites, and farmland. 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.
South America: Scorching end-of-winter heat
In late-September, parts of Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia were forecast to see temperatures exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat waves blanketed other parts of the Southern Hemisphere as well, including Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa.
BOLIVIA: WORLD’S highest navigable lake is drying out
Water levels at Lake Titicaca – South America’s largest – are 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: Hurricane Otis Slams Acapulco
Otis hit Acapulco as a Category 5 hurricane in late October 2023, knocking out all communication. No detailed information is available yet about impact on the ground although the flooding and destruction appear to be severe. 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: saltwater intrusion threatens water supply in new orleans
In mid-October, it was reported that saltwater creeping up the Mississippi River would likely not reach the city of New Orleans. 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. It appears the city will be spared this time, but it must work diligently to prevent repeated threats in the future, which are likely due to climate change. Not only is the saltwater a direct threat to potable water supplies, 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.
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 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.