US Intelligence expresses concern for future global water security

March 22nd, 2012 by Office of the Director of National Intelligence

(click on cover image to go to report download page)

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (USA) has published a report on Global Water Security.

According to a US intelligence assessment, during the next 10 years, many regions will experience water challenges – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will increase the risk of instability and state failure, and increase regional tensions.

Between now and 2040, fresh water availability is unlikely to be able to keep up with demand unless there is more effective management of water resources.

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.

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.

Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods by themselves are unlikely to result in state failure. However, 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.

Water-related state-on-state conflict is unlikely during the next 10 years. Historically, water tensions have led to more water-sharing agreements than violent conflicts.

However, as water shortages become more acute, 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.

During the next 10 years the depletion of groundwater supplies in some agricultural areas – owing to poor management – will pose a risk to national and global food markets.

From now through 2040 water shortages and pollution probably will harm the economic performance of important US trading partners but improved water management (e.g., pricing, allocations, and “virtual water” trade) and investments in water-related sectors (e.g., agriculture, power, and water treatment) will afford the best solutions for water problems.

Because agriculture uses approximately 70% of the global fresh water supply, the greatest potential for relief from water scarcity will be through technology that reduces the amount of water needed for agriculture.

 

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