U.S. Forms Water Partnership to Boost National, Global Security

WASHINGTON, DC, March 22, 2012 (ENS) – “While wars over water are unlikely within the next 10 years, water challenges – shortages, poor water quality, floods – will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, exacerbate regional tensions, and distract countries from working with the United States on important policy objectives,” according to an assessment released today by the U.S. National Intelligence Council.

To mark World Water Day, which falls on March 22 each year, the National Intelligence Council released the unclassified version of its report on Global Water Security over the next 30 years, as requested by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A water distribution point at a refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, October 2011 (Photo by S. Modola courtesy UNHCR)

Between now and 2040, the assessment finds, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand without more effective management of water resources.

“Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth,” the National Intelligence Council concludes. “As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia will face major challenges coping with water problems.”

“We assess that during the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national security interests,” the NIC reports.

“Historically, water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than violent conflicts. However,” the NIC states, “we judge that as water shortages become more acute beyond the next 10 years, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage; the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives also will become more likely beyond 10 years.”

Secretary Clinton today called the intelligence community’s findings “sobering.”

“This assessment is a landmark document that puts water security in its rightful place as part of national security,” Clinton told a news conference at the State Department.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduces the U.S. Water Partnership (Photo courtesy U.S. State Dept.)

“It is also a call for American leadership in this area,” she said. “Our domestic experiences with water and our technical expertise are valued around the world. And as countries become more water stressed or nations face water-related crises, they are increasingly turning to the United States for assistance. We hear this all the time at embassies everywhere. Local leaders meet with our ambassadors and ask, ‘What did you do in the United States? How did you do it? Can you help us?'”

To help answer that call for leadership and to expand the impact of America’s work on water, Clinton today announced the launch of a new public-private partnership, the U.S. Water Partnership, that gathers partners from the private sector, the philanthropic community, the NGOs, academics, experts, and government.

“This approach will help catalyze new opportunities for cooperation,” said Secretary Clinton. “The Water Partnership has built-in flexibility to address the world’s changing water needs and to continue our work to find sustainable solutions.”

A new U.S. Water Web Portal will provide a single entry point to American data, best practices, and training.

This information will help empower people taking on these problems in their own communities, said Clinton. “It will help build international support for American approaches, technologies, companies, government agencies, our whole universe of experts standing ready to assist.”

Typhoon Sendong causes water panic in the Philippines. A cement-mixer truck brought in water for residents of this village to use for hygienic purposes. (Photo by The 700 Club Asia)

The U.S. Water Partnership will not depend on any one government agency or any one private organization to keep it going, said Clinton. “The State Department is proud to be a founding partner, but we also hope that the partnership will spawn many new projects that may or may not involve us.”

“We believe this will help map out our route to a more water secure world,” said Clinton, “a world where no one dies from water-related diseases; where water does not impede social or economic development; and where no war is ever fought over water.”

The U.S. Water Partnership was inspired by Secretary Clinton’s 2010 World Water Day speech in which she pledged to bring American diplomatic, scientific, private sector and development stakeholders together to address global water challenges “holistically.” A series of consultative meetings held between January and September 2011 with representatives from all these sectors shaped the partnership.

Joining Secretary Clinton at the launch of the U.S. Water Partnership Representative Earl Blumenauer, who is proposing legislation to establish a federal Water Trust Fund to help local jurisdictions repair aging water systems and infrastructure.

They were joined by many of the U.S. Water Partnership’s 22 founding members: Africare, the Coca-Cola Company, Procter & Gamble, the Nature Conservancy, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina, World Resources Institute, Global Environment and Technology Foundation, Global Water Challenge, and Clean Water America Alliance.

Government officials were also on hand from the State Department, International Boundary and Water Commission, NASA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID.

The international community has achieved the target for water supply three years before the deadline, United Nations agencies announced earlier this month. USAID, the U.S. government and its partners in this effort have provided first time access for millions around the globe, said USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, but more work is urgently needed.

“Even as we celebrate the news that the world has successfully halved the number of people without access to water and sanitation, it is important to remember that significant disparities still exist between and within countries,” said Shah. “We will continue to work closely with the many countries that have not achieved their individual country Millenium Development Goal target for water supply, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.