Water controversies boil over

Any doubt that California is hip-deep in an epic struggle for water was put to rest earlier this month when an estimated 10,000 farmers and farmworkers marched 50 miles across the gasping San Joaquin Valley.

The goal was to heighten awareness about their water shortage, brought about by a third year of drought in California and environmental problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Their alliance is surprising, given a long history of acrimony between farm owners and laborers. It demonstrates the shifting alliances and simmering tensions that emerge when people fight over water.

We're likely to see more struggles over water, both locally and worldwide. The next big conflict in California is a proposal for a canal built around the Delta, designed to secure a water supply for Central Valley farms and Southern California cities while also improving the environment of the West Coast's largest estuary. Elsewhere, 46 nations risk violent conflict over water and climate-related crises, and 56 other countries face political instability, according to a study by International Alert, a British advocacy group.

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