Water lawyers, courts, and others in the water community are fond of quoting the quip attributed to Mark Twain, "whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over." Not only is there no evidence that Twain ever uttered these words, but the quote has taken on a life of its own which grossly distorts the nature of water competition disputes, especially state to state competition. Both whiskey and water are for human benefit and exist in sufficient quantities throughout the world to satisfy present and future demand. Meeting these demands will be challenging because water must be managed to counter the problems of mal-distribution in certain places. Nonetheless, the idea that water conflict can and will lead to violence is so powerful that the term "war" is often applied to intense but nonviolent conflicts over the use of water. The war metaphor implies that water conflicts are irresolvable unless one party totally prevails over the other. In reality, water violence happens; when it does, it is generally localized, although water facilities have been military targets. This said, many water disputes, especially international ones, simmer unresolved for decades. Festering disputes are cause for concern because the ultimate driver in many water conflicts, both peaceful and potentially violent, is the fear of drought.
A. D. Tarlock,
Water Security, Fear Mitigation and International Water Law (Symposium),
Hamline L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/fac_schol/775