Drawing on a qualitative historical analysis of links between water and conflict in Sudan and South Sudan, this article critiques the emphasis on ‘scarcity’, ‘state failure’ and ‘under-development’ within discussions of environmental security. Instead, the authors propose an alternative model of environment-conflict relations centring on resource abundance and globally-embedded processes of state-building and development, based on the empirical examination of three possible linkages between water and conflict in the Sudans: over trans-boundary waters of the Nile; over the links between internal resource scarcities and civil conflict; and over the internal conflict impacts of water abundance and development.