Date of Award

Summer 2000

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Steven Yetiv

Committee Member

Donald H. Smith


This dissertation tests the hypothesis that water disputes cause serious conflict within and between states. It uses a structured case study approach to see whether there is a link between the independent and dependent variables. It also considers the effect of other variables on serious conflict. Specifically it addresses the effects of national identity and the othering process on conflict. The three case studies are built around rivers in the drier parts of the world. This biases the dissertation towards affirming the established mainstream hypothesis which states that water disputes cause serious conflict. In all three cases, historical animosities and perceptions related to issues of national identity were instrumental in causing political conflict and war between and within states. In the Indus Basin, where water disputes have been resolved, conflict between and within India and Pakistan continued unabated. The conflict there dates to 1947 and has recently acquired a nuclear dimension. In the Nile Basin, religion and ethnicity were the primary factors causing all 20th century warfare there. The same pattern also held in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin. In short, water disputes were of no relevance in terms of causing serious conflict. In fact, a strong case can be made that serious conflicts cause water disputes.


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