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Lecture 8

Lecture 8 lecture notes - Water & War.pdf

Earth Sciences
Course Code
Luc Bernier

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Water & War
1) Which of the following countries is in the midst of a civil war?
a. Syria
b. Spain
c. Greece
d. South Africa
Control Over Water
Six-Day war, in 1967: Aimed at gaining control of the headwaters of the River Jordan
o Meant to secure water supplies
o Creating a buffer zone with Egypt
Ariel Sharon, 2001: “Water diversion was a stark issue of life and death”
Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan Heights
Part 1 - Water and Strategic Warfare
Water and Ancient Wars
Freshwater supply: a strategic resource in armed conflicts throughout history
Freshwater supply has always been a strategic in armed conflicts throughout history
Securing the water supply has always been one of the first prerequisites for protecting a
city in war time
For instance a 1 km long tunnel engineered by Eupalinos of Megara diverted spring water
to the city of Samos and helped assisting the Greek city through a Persian attack around
550 BC
This tunnel is now restored
Water and Modern Wars
Water supplies today: are still open to threats from war and terrorism, directly or
Special operations forces (e.g. Navy Seals)
Water supplies today are still open to threats from war and terrorism, directly or
Both forms of violence have used disruption or poisoning of water supplies as a weapon
both may cause collateral damage to water supplies
Special operations forces, e.g. Navy Seals, may use tactics similar to those employed by
terrorists with similar repercussion s to water systems
The main practical consideration is between formal military actions and more informal
smaller scale gorilla activities which may be direction more at civilian personnel and
designed to engineer fear and panic as well as specific damage
Acts of “Water Violence”
Executed by retreating forces as furtive attacks or: to protect their rear
South-West African Campaign, 1915

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Water & War
o Acts of water violence may be executed by retreating forces as furtive attacks or
to protect their rear
o During the WWI German troops poisoned water wells as they retreated from
advancing south-African troops during the south-west African campaign in 1915
o South-West Africa is now called Numidia
German troops blew up dykes: protecting newly reclaimed polders
Netherlands, 1945
o During their retreat from the Netherlands in 1945 German troops blew up dykes
protecting newly reclaimed polders
o This flooded the land in four villages but the action had no military purpose
Iraqi forces retreating from Kuwait in 1991 opened valves of coastal oil wells
Coast of Kuwait, 1991
o Iraqi forces retreating from Kuwait in 1991 opened the valves of coastal oil wells
releasing tons of oil into the Persian Gulf with considerable ecological
o The aim of this action was to force the closure of a Saudi desalination plant which
is a prime water resource for the capital
Water as a Weapon of War
By withholding or destroying water supplies as: a means of wearing down resistance
Dead sheep decomposing
o Water may be used as a weapon of war by withholding or destroying the water
supplies as a means of wearing down the enemy’s resistance
o For instance the Romans used dead carcases to pollute the enemies water supplies
for instance a dead sheep in water that is decomposing
o In modern times during the Gulf war in 1991 a plan was proposed for Turkey to
cut off the flow of the Euphrates in the Tigris rivers into Iraq but this was never
Water Bombs
On occasion, excess of water has been used as a weapon
Operation Chastise, 1943
o On occasion the excess water has been used as a weapon
o During WWII British dambuster aircrafts which were modified Lancaster’s
attacked dams in valley in Germany with bouncing bombs
City of Dortmund; coal mines, factories, ironworks were inundated
Eder dam
Mohne Dam
o The result of the operation was the bursting of the Eder and Mohne dams in1943
o The hydropower plant of the Eder dam, then the largest in Europe, was destroyed
o Other dams downstream from the Mohne collapsed because of flooding
o The city of Dortmund, coal mines, factories, ironworkers were inundated
o 1500 people died as a result of the flooding

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Water & War
Part 2 - Water and Modern Wars
War Against the Marsh Arabs
In 1991, Shiite Muslims: encouraged to rise up against Saddam Hussein by the US
The marsh lands are located between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers
With more military resources this regime was able to complete this opposition
Draining of the Marshes
Through diversions: as retaliation after the insurrection of 1991
From 1992 to 1993
40 rivers were diverted
Water was taken from the marshes and used to irrigate other areas
The original population was about 5 million people
Due to the impacts of the diversion (collapse of ecosystem) only 85, 000 people were left
Draining of the Marshes: Aftermath
After all the diversions the central marshes disappeared along with the vegetation
90% of the marshlands were drained
A lot of the water taken/diverted away for irrigation were used on soils that were prone to
salainization and weren’t good for irrigation
Salinization in 80% of soils
Large Dams as Military Targets
Kajaki Dam
Starting in the 1950’s when the Americans were providing money for the construction of
the dam during the cold war
The dam was completed in the 1970’s
The plan was to leave some of the water behind
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