U.S Intelligence: Looming Water Wars Will Add to Global Insecurity


 This once bountiful lake dating to 12,000 years ago is the “sacrificial lamb” that, since 1913, has been diverted to feed the needs of Los Angeles, an otherwise desert community.  It is, in microcosm, a vision of our world as population overflows the limits of its resources.
Aside from the enormous need for water in “fracking,” mining, and irrigation, people need water for drinking.  More and more fresh water is being sequestered or “buried” in deep geological formations as it becomes polluted with mining tailings, chemical and nuclear waste.  There is no unified database of where these polluted wastes are hidden and the demand for more will continue to increase.  
For those of us who are somewhat cynical it might be the time to buy water rights in the Andean countries as been done in Bolivia recently.  If something is inevitable one might as well profit from it.  It will make your life more comfortable even if one’s grandchildren’s lips may be parched. – Carlos  http://thinkingbig.fidelity.com/

  Tomorrow’s Oil.  What Happens When the Fresh Water is Gone?

 Rene Schoof, McClatchy/News Report, Published: Friday 23 March 2012
“Water problems in the next decade will add to instability in countries that are important to U.S. national security.”   “Water problems in the next decade will add to instability in countries that are important to U.S. national security.”
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Floods and water short­ages in the next 30 years will make it hard for many coun­tries to keep up with grow­ing de­mand for fresh water, par­tic­u­larly in South Asia, the Mid­dle East and North Africa, the U.S. in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity re­ported Thurs­day.

Water prob­lems in the next decade will add to in­sta­bil­ity in coun­tries that are im­por­tant to U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity, the re­port said. Floods and short­ages also will make it hard for some coun­tries to grow enough food or pro­duce enough en­ergy, cre­at­ing risk for global food mar­kets and slow­ing eco­nomic growth.

“I think it’s fair to say the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s find­ings are sober­ing,” said Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton, who re­quested the re­port last year. “These threats are real and they do raise se­ri­ous se­cu­rity con­cerns.”

Clin­ton, speak­ing at an event to mark World Water Day, an­nounced a new U.S. Water Part­ner­ship, made up of pri­vate com­pa­nies, phil­an­thropy and ad­vo­cacy groups, aca­d­e­mics and gov­ern­ment. The group will co­or­di­nate ef­forts to solve water prob­lems and make U.S. ex­per­tise more ac­ces­si­ble.

“We be­lieve this will help map out our route to a more wa­ter-se­cure world,” Clin­ton said.

The in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment, drafted by the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency with con­tri­bu­tions from the CIA and other agen­cies, was aimed at an­swer­ing how water prob­lems will af­fect U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests. The clas­si­fied ver­sion, fin­ished in Oc­to­ber, named spe­cific coun­tries ex­pected to have water prob­lems, but they weren’t iden­ti­fied in the un­clas­si­fied ver­sion. The pub­lic ver­sion said only that an­a­lysts fo­cused on “strate­gi­cally im­por­tant coun­tries” along major rivers in the Mid­dle East, Cen­tral and South Asia and North Africa.

Some find­ings:

• Agri­cul­ture, which takes 68 per­cent of the water used by hu­mans, is one of the biggest areas where coun­tries need to find so­lu­tions to water prob­lems. De­sali­na­tion may be eco­nom­i­cal for house­hold and in­dus­trial use, but it isn’t cur­rently eco­nom­i­cal for agri­cul­ture.

• Wars over water are un­likely in the next decade. Still, as water short­ages worsen, coun­tries that share water basins may strug­gle to pro­tect their water rights. And ter­ror­ists “al­most cer­tainly” will tar­get water in­fra­struc­ture.

• In­dus­trial de­mand for water will re­main high, be­cause water is needed to gen­er­ate power, run in­dus­try and ex­tract oil, gas and other re­sources. This means that water short­ages and pol­lu­tion likely will harm the economies of “im­por­tant trad­ing part­ners” of the U.S.

The re­port cov­ers the pe­riod to 2040. In that span, pop­u­la­tion growth and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment will be the key rea­sons for grow­ing water de­mand, while water sup­plies will de­cline in many places.

Cli­mate change, mean­while, will bring a higher risk of droughts and floods. Water stored in glac­i­ers and snow will de­cline. Sea-level rise will mean that coastal storms will cause more dam­age.

“At times water flows will be se­vere enough to over­whelm the wa­ter-con­trol in­fra­struc­tures of even de­vel­oped coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States,” the re­port noted.

The least-pre­pared areas the in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts stud­ied were the basins of the Amu Darya and Brahma­pu­tra rivers. The Amu Darya basin in Cen­tral Asia (Afghanistan, Tajik­istan, Uzbek­istan and Turk­menistan) is ex­pected to have poorer food se­cu­rity through­out the next 30 years. The Brahma­pu­tra basin (Tibet, India and Bangladesh) is ex­pected to have ten­sions over wa­ter-de­vel­op­ment pro­jects, re­duced po­ten­tial for hy­dropower after 2020 and re­duced food se­cu­rity, es­pe­cially for fish­eries, the re­port said.

Clin­ton said that in north­ern India, too much use of ground water could leave mil­lions of peo­ple with­out enough food and water.


About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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4 Responses to U.S Intelligence: Looming Water Wars Will Add to Global Insecurity

  1. It is much better to antecipate the the question of lacking water. Soon or late it will come. Perhaps not as an excuse but as a real problem to rich and poor countries.

    But no doubt that war is in our genes. Hasn’t someone already told that “mankind’s history is the history of its wars” (?!!!)


    • carlos says:

      People worry about oil but the larger issues in my mind are the exponential growth of population and the limiting resources of food and water. – Carlos

  2. Don’t you think that water shortage can be source for co-operation? If you look at the Israel-Jordan situation, one of the key areas of co-operation has been precisely because of the water shortages and the shared border along the river Jordan- arguably this is one of the main reasons why Jordan quickly made and maintained peace after Israel took the Golan Heights (and control of the key point in the Upper Jordan), and why co-operation has to continue. This isn’t to say it wont be a cause for war etc., or that desalination plants aren’t an easier target than rivers, but just to say that it might not be so clear cut.

    • carlos says:

      There may indeed be technological advances and treaties for sharing water resources such as the riparian rights to the Colorado River water. Unfortunately, by the time the river reaches its delta at the top or the Gulf of California, there is no water left. As populations continue to grow water will be increasingly limited and people will cooperate only to a degree. Some international corporations are even buying water rights. Bolivia stands out as a recent example. If you Google, water rights and Bolivia I’m sure you’ll find something. I have a more pessimistic opinion of human nature (I suppose) looking back on all of the world’s excuses for war (land, riches, religion, racism) I think war is in our genes. Thanks for writing. I’ll be checking out “caseofconflict” soon.

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