By David Klayton, Environment Issue Analyst

You’ve probably heard the phrase “resource wars,” and you probably usually think of wars over oil that dominated the 20th century. But have you ever stopped to take the time to think about what the phrase really means, and how it pertains to the future of the planet?

As much as we may like to think they are, resources on this planet are not infinite. In fact, we will start to run low on many elements and minerals like copper and aluminum within the next century. Expect a skyrocket in the cost of living by the turn of the 22nd century. But there is one resource being depleted that will affect humanity beyond an increase in the cost of living. People can live without copper, without aluminum, without oil even, but people cannot live without water.

Many say that wars of the 20th century were fought over oil. And many say that wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. It’s pretty simple: when people need something they don’t have, they fight for it. People need water, and more and more people are losing access to it. The evidence is not lacking. Consider this report on the problems that recent water shortages in China have caused. Or consider this article on the relationships between increasing urban zones in Africa and the limited water sources available there. Or considerthis report predicting problems with food insecurity due to decreasing water supplies in nations across the entire globe.

I don’t know how to say it any better than this: The world is running out of water. Large-scale conflict has not yet begun over the depletion of water. Yet. What can be done to prevent any such conflict? Awareness isn’t enough. National leaders need to be more proactive in their understanding of this issue, need to communicate with one another on possible solutions to such a global problem. Right now we live in a world divided. We need to live in a world unified in transnational understanding of such inevitable problems like water depletion.