The role of water in environmental migration

Justin Stoler, Amber L. Pearson, Asher Y. Rosinger, Alison Elizabeth Lee, Rodrigo Bombardi, Alexandra Brewis, Sara Beth Keough, David López-Carr, Cho Hee Shrader, Christine E. Stauber, Edward G.J. Stevenson, Andrea Sullivan, Raymond A. Tutu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Water has always been a driver of human mobility, migration, and displacement. But water is increasingly central to explaining environmental migration in the context of climate change. Most studies of the relationship between water and environmental migration are framed around punctuated, extreme weather events and disasters that either limit agricultural or livestock productivity or make a community physically unlivable. The chronic experiences of household water insecurity and poor water governance also shape migration decision-making through a variety of social, political, and economic factors, but these relationships have received considerably less attention. This article provides an overview of punctuated and chronic water-related triggers of environmental migration at the household level. We also offer a conceptual framework based on multiphasic response theory that highlights water's multiple roles in migration decision-making. We close by reflecting on key gaps in the climate-water-migration literature, identifying research questions that might help us better understand these relationships, and considering the implications for sustainable development policies that could potentially ease pressures on water-related displacement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1584
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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