Potential solutions for even the most complex water insecurity-related crises can be developed so long as the key drivers of risk are correctly understood, a report from the World Resources Institute, the Pacific Institute, and the Water, Peace and Security partnership suggests.
According to the report, Ending Conflicts Over Water: Solutions to Water and Security Challenges (128 pages, PDF), increasing levels of water insecurity globally, combined with other stressors, is driving violent conflict and triggering mass migration. But intensifying water insecurity can be addressed, the report's authors argue, with solutions that take into account the multiple interconnected factors driving it — including the effects of climate change, population and economic growth, pollution, upstream dams, inefficient water use, poor resource management, and weak institutions.
The report provides case studies of and proposed solutions to water and security challenges in Africa's Sahel region, Central America, India, Iran, Iraq, and Yemen, with solutions organized into four broad categories: natural resources, science, and engineering approaches; political and legal tools; economic and financial tools; and policy and governance strategies.
Supported by core funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the study found that solutions require significant political will, collective action, and successful management of trade-offs and vested interests. To that end, the report's authors recommend providing key stakeholders with early warning systems and raising awareness of the nature and urgency of water-related threats; increasing stakeholder engagement in decision making; and developing stakeholders' capacity to intervene.
"Most solutions require significant funding. The rapid response teams should therefore have the backing of development banks, bilateral aid agencies, the private sector, and other sources of funding that can furnish needed grants or loans," the authors write. "The challenge of collective action is significant, but it can be overcome if and when societies recognize the benefits of needed changes and the perils of continuing with 'business as usual.'"
"Our report finds that many groups across the world may be especially vulnerable to water insecurities because of their gender, age, income, race, or ethnicity," said WRI research analyst Ayushi Trivedi. "Their inclusion in water management, especially that of women, is an important step towards better water governance. We also explore how eliminating discrimination against women is key to achieving a rights-based reduction in population pressures on scarce water resources."