Water’s role in global migration

3 January, 2022

There are more than 1 billion migrants in the world today – and water deficits are linked to 10% of the rise in global migration. The World Bank’s recently-released flagship publication on water shows that it is a lack of water, rather than too much, that has a greater impact on migration.

The new report, Ebb and Flow: Water, Migration, and Development, examines the link between water and migration, and the implications for economic development. The report is based on analysis of the largest ever data set on internal migration, covering nearly half a billion people from 189 population censuses in 64 countries from 1960 to 2015. The report is in two parts. Volume 1 covers water, migration, and development. Volume 2 focuses on water, forced displacement and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

Key messages include:

  • Water deficits are linked to 10% of the rise in global migration, and climate change is accelerating the global water crisis.
  • Global warming will make “day zero” events more common in the world’s cities, which are now home to 55% of the human population.
  • Governments need to protect people, livelihoods, and resources, introducing a complementary range of policies that can improve livelihoods and turn water-induced crises into opportunities.
  • Water is more often a victim and casualty of conflict – rather than a primary source of conflict – in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
  • Within MENA, water risks have historically led more to cooperation than conflict.

Download the report here.