Water Scarcity and Global Security
First published on RobertBensh.org
You’ve probably already realized that there is so much more to global security than war. There are other aspects of humanity that are just as critical to our survival. Things like public health, economic security, and, of course, natural resources like oxygen, energy, and…water?
Yes. Water. In fact, there are so many ways that water impacts global security both positively and negatively. We could harness its power as a viable energy resource. We could suffer from undetectable poisons infiltrating our supply. We could run out. In all reality, it’s that last one that is perhaps the most frightening because it may already be happening.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, “water scarcity is a global threat to security because it drives instability that can lead to wild terrorism and violence.” This statement becomes extremely relevant when we consider that climate change is currently contributing to severe droughts in several regions around the world.
Northern South America, Australia, and southern Africa are among the regions predicted to be most affected by water scarcity in 2019. Early forecasts indicate a severe shortage for countries including Columbia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana. Industry professionals say that the El Nino system is primarily responsible for these extended dry spells.
Experts posit that water scarcity has directly impacted more than one major world conflict within the last decade including the evolution of the war in Syria that began in 2011. Shortages are also responsible for billions of dollars of debt when you account for all of the cascading damages caused to public health, the environment, and commerce.
In countries where agricultural commerce is critical to infrastructure, the availability of water can make or break economic viability which can, in turn, compound the nation’s propensity for civil unrest. No water translates to decreased production rates and ruined yields. No yields mean no products to export and, by default, no incoming funds. Living conditions and access to public resources are diminished and risk of exposure to things like illness and environmental destruction increase significantly.
The result is an unavoidable aggravation of a population already attempting to survive on a rationed water supply. Other, power-hungry countries may then view the weakened country as unstable, and leverage their superior access to resources in an effort to gain levels of control or influence where, previously, they had none.
Some groups, like the Water, Peace, and Security partnership, are currently working on a better way to detect and prevent water shortages worldwide. Using technology, they are attempting to develop an early warning system. The system will use available data to assess risk levels and predict shortages in an attempt to give the affected area time to prepare. The technology being used does have its limitations, but contributors are hopeful that it can and will be refined as the AI continues its learning process.