Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Benjamin Jones

Relational Format



This thesis uses quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the relationship between water availability and civil conflict through an ethnic conflict lens. It further applies the trends observed in this relationship to United States National Security concerns to provide real-world applications of the knowledge gained. Consisting of quantitative and qualitative parts, this thesis uses logit analysis of data to test for significance in the water-conflict relationship then conducts a case study on Israel and Palestine, Darfur, and ISIS in Iraq to examine how water impacts conflict in true situations. This thesis posits that increased measures of ethnic divisiveness, monopolization of power, autocratic rule, and shorter period of peace will inform the relationship that greater supply, demand, or structurally induced water scarcity will increase the likelihood of violent or nonviolent conflict onset. Although no reliable significant relationships were found, this result indicates that water is more likely an indirect contributor to conflict through the social processes it initiates than a consistently measurable cause of conflict. Through the case studies, this thesis finds that hydrological factors, lack of adaptation ability to environmental changes, information problems, and social processes triggered by water issues are indications that water may be contributing to conflict potential in real cases. Therefore, this thesis concludes that although statistical relationships between water scarcity and conflict outcomes eluded the analysis, there are observable instances in which water issues contributed indirectly to creating conditions favorable for conflict. In terms of United States national security interests, this conclusion necessitates that in order to predict and prevent water-related insecurity and instability, it is essential that the United States take initiative to promote knowledge of future environmental changes, their impacts on water and social stability, and effective adaptations for unclear future conditions.



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