Dr. Aaron Wolf from Oregon State University recently discussed conflict and cooperation over transboundary water resources as part of a new lecture series at Texas A&M University — Water Security Speaker Series — that aims to bring water scholars across the campus and the world to speak on water security.
Wolf is a professor of geography in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences and director of the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation (PWCMT).
Wolf’s research focuses on dispute resolution to efficiently manage transboundary water resources. With more than 310 transboundary international basins and at least 600 transboundary aquifer basins worldwide that cross physical and political boundaries, conflicts can result, Wolf said.
As part of his work, he founded the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database to conduct research on the treaties, water conflicts and/or cooperation and related maps to understand transboundary processes.
Wolf emphasized that through his work in mediation and conflict resolution, his team found that despite conflicting characteristics, there are always at least three things people can agree upon. They found more instances of cooperation rather than conflict through discussions, group engagement and historical research.
“If we are not managing water cooperatively, we are not managing it efficiently,” he said.
Those interested in transboundary water research can access the PWCMT’s open-source database for GIS layers on population, water accessibility and scarcity. Researchers can also access datasets, publications, images and maps related to transboundary processes.
In addition to research in conflict and cooperation, Wolf highlighted a new field of interest: faith-based discussions on water use and management. He said the need for faith-based cultural and cross-border discussions would be useful to identify uses and rights beyond conventional uses such as hydropower, irrigation and domestic needs. He is interested in looking at models that detail faith communities to facilitate dialogues and to maximize benefits within a community.
For those wanting to learn more about faith-based dialogues for water management, check out Wolf’s new book, “The Spirt of Dialogue.”