By 2050, the global population is forecasted to reach almost 10 billion people, and many scientists believe that will be a tipping point for humanity.
Resources on the planet may become unsustainable and water shortages caused by an increased demand and global warming could ignite chaos.
A team of scientists from the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) used artificial intelligence to identify “pre-conditions and factors” which could lead to a lack of water in areas around the globe, particularly in regions where water is shared by bordering nations.
The researchers believe “hydro-political” tensions could lead to riots and even warfare.
In their research, the scientists write: “Competition over limited water resources is one of the main concerns for the coming decades.
“Although water issues alone have not been the sole trigger for warfare in the past, tensions over freshwater management and use represent one of the main concerns in political relations between riparian states and may exacerbate existing tensions, increase regional instability and social unrest.”
The team state that the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates and Colorado rivers are “water hotspots,” where “hydro-political interactions” are most likely to take place and are all “already water stressed basins”.
JRC researcher and lead author of the study, Fabio Farinosi, explained: “The scope of our study is two-fold.
“First, we wanted to highlight the factors which lead to either political cooperation or tensions in transboundary river basins.
“And second, we wanted to map and monitor the likelihood of these kinds of interactions over space and time and under changing socio-economic conditions.”
The team believe overpopulation and climate change will increase the chance of water-related conflicts by between 75 percent and 95 percent in the next 50 to 100 years.
But Dr Farinosi believes there is time to prepare.
He said: “This does not mean that each case will result in a conflict.
“It depends on how well prepared and equipped the countries are to cooperate.
“This is where we hope our research can help, by raising awareness of the risks so that solutions can be sought early on.”