Predictions of inevitable and imminent wars over scarce water are routinely made by prominent political figures, academics, journalists, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These statements continue to occur despite both a questionable theoretical foundation and little empirical evidence to support them. This study demonstrates that several sets of actors—policymakers, academics, journalists, and NGO activists—each have different incentives to stress and even exaggerate the probability of war over water. This confluence of incentives has likely contributed to an overemphasis in public discourse of the likelihood of water wars.

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