The Global Water Security Report warns that problems such as population growth, climate change, and water management that strains water supplies could destabilize regions around the world in the future.(Source: Diane Rehm Show, 3 April 2012, about “Global Water Security,”Intelligence Community Assessment, 2 Feb 2012.)
Water issues are often seen in local and national terms, but the global picture is becoming more relevant. E.g., The tsunami and ensuing floods in Japan wreaked havoc on its economy with economic spillovers in technology, auto production and global supply chains. Policy areas of energy, health, food security and environment intersect water demand and supply issues. Arguments about water wars are likely overblown. However, historical norms are changing owing to demographics, urbanization and industrialization in the developing world.
“Water problems— when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions— contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.” Implications of freshwater scarcity include instability, interstate conflict due to water-sharing agreements that could lead to using water as political leverage, and water as a potential terrorist threat. “Depletion of groundwater will hurt agricultural areas – putting national and global food markets at risk.” Cooperation on transboundary waters intersects several issues: agriculture, hydropower, insufficiently treated wastewater, mining, and especially policy coherence and integration. The EU currently has strong legal framework for water management and pollution control, but institutions for cooperation need to be strengthened especially in the Aral Sea and Kura basins. (Source: Global Water Security Report, Feb 2012.)
Economic growth, urbanization, industrialization and increasing affluence will shift demand for water and sanitation purposes even higher. For example, China’s middle class is expected to grow from 4% of the population in 2005 to 56% by 2030. Population growth makes declining water supplies spread among more people, agriculture, industry and businesses, challenging, even posing competitive threats, to one another. (Warren, 2010) By 2030, two billion more urban residents are expected to populate the globe.
India-China Conflict Over the Brahmaputra Brahmaputra River and its basin, surrounding India, China, and reaching Bangladesh, is considered a "potential water flashpoint" by scholarly experts. World Preservation Foundation stated that aquifers under Beijing and Delhi are drying up. Science supports this. Demographic trends alongside urbanization (increasing middle classes) and industrialization will place unprecedented demands on water supply in these regions. China is building numerous hydropower dams on the Brahmaputra, with an eye toward river diversion as well. India also has the same ideas.
Historically, Pakistan has faced massive water challenges including access to the Indus and Punjab river headwaters. Pakistan depends on both retreating Himalayan glaciers and monsoon rainfalls, which frequently change. Growing water demands coupled with waterlogging and salinity in their irrigation increase water issues for Pakistanis. The Pakistan/India conflict over the Indus has had many inflection With the largest continuous points. irrigation system in the world, Pakistan’s massive agricultural sector depends on water supply from Regional cooperation between the the Indus River. two countries is imperative. A 2010 dry spell in the region led India to allegedly withhold water from South Asia’s rivers “are the lifelines Pakistani farmers. The construction of its economy” making water issues of Indian dams on the Indus could a point of development and enable India to cut off Pakistan’s economic necessity, says Richard water supply. Damania of the World Bank.
Rapid urbanization and industrial growth are main drivers of its water- energy demand challenges. Agriculture makes up 50% of water demand, andindustrial demand comprises the other 32%, which is largely driven by thermal power generation.
Water refugees within China are driven from their homes. Ten provinces in China, accounting for 45% of GDP, are considered water poor by the World Bank.
Water shortages costChina about 1.3% of itsannual economic output,with a further 1% lost towater pollution, says theWorld Bank.
Australia has become a global leader in water research, policy and practice. Shortages in rainfall (drought) over the past decade have caused Australia to implement new programs. Areas in Australia have suffered the driest seasons on record in the last 13 years, emphasizing the importance of water security in the country. The Australian Water Resources Project, a collaboration between the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), Uniwater, and Harvard, addresses Australian water issues with findings and research that can be applied globally.
Pressures from agriculture and development on the Everglades region in Central Florida have severely degraded the ecosystem, according to Columbia University researchers. Since the 1930s, there has been an 80% decline in wading bird populations and a severe worsening of water quality from decreased freshwater flows.
Africa is the second driest continent in the world with 14 countries suffering from water problems. 25 sub-Saharan countries will be water stressed by 2025, at which time nearly 50% of Africa’s predicted population of 1.45 billion people will face water strain or scarcity. (Source: World Economic Forum Water Initiative, Jan 2009)
Brazil, with its 205,700,000 population, faces water scarcity, water pollution, drought and flood events, and unequal access to water and sanitation services. Though Brazil has about 15% of the world’s freshwater resources, the water is unequally distributed. E.g., Amazon region holds about 12% of the population, but 80% of the water resources. According to the 2010 Census: 83% of the population has in-house access to water supply.
The Amazon has a unique role in There have been major climate and hydrology. advances in the last 20 years between the government, NGOs The Amazon region has the and municipalities: world’s cleanest energy metrics: Sophisticated, world- 90% of electricity comes from class NGOS are hydropower. focusing on science and applying practical solutions. 40% of the Amazon is under conservation restrictions.
With industry being a heavy user of water, strategies such as reduce, recycle, replenish and sustain are being implemented by global leaders such as Coca Cola and others. Firms are forming public-private partnerships (PPPs) to work with varied government, environmental and non-governmental organizations. Eg. USAID, WWF, World Bank, IFC, Global Water Challenge Replenish and sustain activities include watershed protection, community access to water and sanitation (especially in developing countries), and education and awareness initiatives.
Produced by:Jennifer WarrenDanielle DuddingMaya Lechowick Disclaimer: all errors and omissions are the authors above.