Discussion Paper: Water and U.S. National Security

Discussion Paper: Water and U.S. National Security

Source: Council on Foreign Relations, 2017

Author(s): Joshua Busby

Countries: United States

Topics: Climate Change, Programming, Renewable Resources

Added: 06/12/2017


Water and security are inextricably linked in every region of the world. While shared interests have historically facilitated cooperation in managing water, the future could be different. Climate change, combined with increased and more diverse demands for water, makes disputes more likely. Moreover, many of the security problems associated with water will occur in areas where the United States has strategic interests, including the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. Yet water as an issue for U.S. national security lacks sustained visibility and sufficient funding. 

To address global water issues, pragmatic steps are necessary. These include an enhanced priority for water and security at the highest levels in the U.S. government; more support for data collection, analysis, and early warning efforts; investments in institutions to manage transboundary rivers and domestic water supplies; and more public-private partnerships to increase water supplies, water conservation, and to waterproof at-risk infrastructure.

Water is essential for drinking, agriculture, and livestock. It is also used for electricity generation and industry. But around the world, hundreds of millions of people live without access to sufficient water for part or all of the year. The largest numbers of people who face constant water scarcity live in China and India, but high proportions of the populations of Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen also face severe year-round water stress. Acute droughts periodically put millions of lives and livelihoods at risk. In a world of climate change and increased population growth, challenges related to water scarcity will only grow. 


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