Desalination and Transboundary Water Conflict and Cooperation: A Mixed-Method Empirical Approach

Maureen Walschot, David Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of the adoption of desalination on relations between parties in transboundary settings is unclear. The previous literature has indicated that the effect of desalination on conflict and cooperation is an empirical matter. By reducing scarcity and variability, the adoption of desalination is likely to reduce the potential for conflict, though it may also create new conflicts, for instance, over water of marginal quality or over issues of equity. Its effect on cooperation is even more ambiguous, as it both offers parties more flexibility, which is likely to increase cooperation, but can be implemented unilaterally, which may reduce the need for cooperation. The little empirical work that has been published investigating these impacts has been largely based on anecdotal evidence or individual case studies. This paper presents a more systematic look at these impacts, using a mixed-method (quantitative and qualitative) analysis of interstate interactions before and after the adoption of large-scale seawater desalination. The results support the contention that while desalination has the potential to reduce conflict and increase cooperation, the impact of desalination on hydropolitics cannot be assumed a priori. Rather, it is largely context-dependent, and as such, it should not be viewed as a technological fix for transboundary water relations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1925
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • conflict
  • cooperation
  • desalination
  • hydropolitics
  • transboundary waters
  • water securitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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