Conflict is probably the most frequently used word in stories about water in the U.S. West. The word represents the seriousness of global water issues, from the drought-prone areas of Asia to the infrastructure-poor countries of central and southern Africa. Is the future one of litigation amidst an increasingly unsustainable economy and its growing uncertainty?

The crux of the problem is how society manages water. What matters most in these water conflicts is its access: When and where it is available. Water delivered in one place rarely is interchangeable with water delivered elsewhere. Water available in January is not a substitute for water available in August. People in developed nations typically are unaware of this because of infrastructure, such as reservoirs and canals, that allows for the storing of water from one season to the next, and its transport from one place to another.

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Check out this great opinion piece by Giulio Boccaletti, managing director of the Global Freshwater Program for The Nature Conservancy.