Monday, July 23, 2012

Global water security: moving towards worldwide assessment

Helene Lavoix in AlertNet:  Considering any issue in terms of strategic foresight and warning for national security demands, first and foremost, a minimal understanding of the issue itself, which is notably obtained by reaching out to experts in the related fields, as done by the 2012 “Global Water Security” IC Assessment (ICA), published earlier this year at the request of the U.S. Department of State.

Focusing initially on an understanding of water, without any self-imposed restriction, will underline three major points, already sparsely evidenced in the ICA, and upon which we could build more systematically for an even better, and more actionable strategic foresight and warning on water related security issues.

First, and as underlined by all studies on water,  water on earth is distributed according to various forms and places. The most widely used estimate of water distribution was established by Igor Shiklomanov (1993) and is similar to a more recent assessment (Gleick, 1996). It would appear that the ICA uses the same figures, approximations on percentages apart.*

As a result, most studies dealing with water as security issue mainly focus on freshwater, especially freshwater most commonly used by human beings, i.e. rivers and lakes, as well as groundwater. This is how the ICA proceeds, indeed emphasising that “we do not do a comprehensive analysis of the entire global water landscape” (Scope Note).

However, one also finds throughout the assessment evidence that the ICA does not actually limit itself to this approach, as we shall see. It is indeed necessary to define and most often reduce the scope of any study, as well as to focus on specific objectives, here national interest. Human usage of water is obviously crucial for survival, likely to generate tensions and thus of primary importance to national security....

Water drop by Michael Melgar, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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