Picture the desert landscape of a Mad Max movie populated with vigilantes devoted to acquiring not gasoline — but water.

This scenario isn't as far-fetched as you might think. "Water wars" describes conflicts between countries, states, or groups over the right to access water resources, usually freshwater. Freshwater is necessary for drinking, irrigation, and electricity generation, and conflicts occur when the demand for potable water exceeds the supply, or when allocation or control of water is disputed.

Worldwide "water wars"

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The first known war over water took place between the Sumerian states of Lagash and Umma around 2500 BCE. A dispute over the Gu'edena (edge of paradise) region of Mesopotamia led Urlama, King of Lagash, to divert water, thus depriving Umma. Urlama's son Il followed in his father's footsteps and he cut off the water supply to Girsu, a city in Umma.