US Warns of Global Water Insecurity

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday access to water is critical for the health and growth of society, while a new U.S. intelligence report warns of the risks of instability resulting from water challenges over the next decade.

In Washington on Thursday, which is World Water Day 2012, Secretary Clinton underscored the importance of the availability of the resource.  

"Reliable access to water is essential for feeding the family, running the industries that promote jobs, generating the energy that fuels national growth, and certainly it is central when we think about how climate change will affect future generations," said Clinton.

She added available clean water has huge health implications as well.

"When nearly two million people die each year from preventable waterborne disease, clean water is critical if we're going to be talking about achieving our global health goals," Clinton said. "Something as simple as better access to water and sanitation can improve the quality of life and reduce the disease burden for billions of people."

Clinton noted that the issue is a concern throughout the world, including in the United States, where she says there have been increasing problems in meeting the country's own needs in the desert Southwest or managing floods in the East.

Meanwhile, a report prepared by the U.S. National Intelligence Council says over the next decade, many regions around the world will experience water challenges that will increase the risk of instability and state failure.

The Intelligence Community Assessment report says the water challenges will increase regional tensions and distract countries from working with the U.S. on important issues.  The report's purpose was to assess the impact of global water issues on U.S. security interests over the next 30 years.

It says the regions that will be most affected are North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

But a senior intelligence official says water challenges alone are unlikely to result in state failure.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, tells VOA that for instance, it still is too early to sort out how the current situation in the Middle East will ultimately affect the region's water security.

But as the report details, water problems when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation and weak governments will contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.

The report predicts that a water-related state-on-state conflict is unlikely during the next 10 years. But as pressure intensifies on water availability, water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage or even become a terrorist objective.

It recommends that improved water management and investments in water-related sectors, such as agriculture, will afford the best solutions for water problems. The report also says since agriculture uses about 70 percent of the global fresh water supply, technology that reduces the amount of water needed to grow crops will offer the greatest potential for relief from water scarcity.

Water Scarcity Map

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