Desalination and hydrodiplomacy: Refreshening transboundary water negotiations or adding salt to the wounds?
Much of the literature on the political ramifications of desalination has emphasized its potential to mitigate transboundary water conflicts by increasing the quantity of available water (thereby alleviating scarcity), and also by reducing variability and uncertainty regarding the timing, location, and quality of water supplies. Of less focus has been the potential for the introduction of desalination to affect efforts at hydrodiplomacy, by, for instance, shifting international negotiating positions, strategies and outcomes. Desalination allows for countries to be more flexible in their negotiating positions, however, it also changes the set of alternatives to negotiations and can reduce incentives for cooperation. Moreover, while desalination has much potential to reduce interstate conflict over shared water resources, it can also introduce new disputes, for instance, by generating demand for previously unusable waters. This article provides an overview of the potential and actual impacts of desalination on international hydrodiplomacy, and provides case studies of how desalination can introduce new issues of concern over previously uncontentious waters.