Hot topics

h-water

WATER SECURITY

“The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability” (UN-Water, 2013).

“The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of and acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability” (UN-Water, 2013).

With more than 70% of the Earth’s surface covered by water, it is sometimes hard to grasp the threat posed by water insecurity. However, according to USGS, when you consider that only 2.5 percent of this is freshwater, most of which is inaccessible because it is stored in glaciers and ice caps, and the rest of which, 1.2 of that 2.5 percent, must be shared among a human population of seven billion and growing, this issue becomes more tangible. Water security is an inherently multidisciplinary issue. It is dependent on biophysical elements as well as infrastructural, institutional, political, social and financial factors. Water security usually tends to focus on four key aspects: (1) whether populations have access to enough safe water to meet basic drinking, sanitation, hygiene and health needs, (2) whether there is enough freshwater available for ecosystems to deliver their services on which both humans and nature depend, (3) whether there is sufficient water for the production of food, energy, industry, transportation and tourism, and (4) whether populations have the means to protect themselves against water-related hazards such as floods, droughts and pollution.

To achieve this security goal, governments need to implement certain measures. First, this includes transboundary cooperation where states are able to make mutually beneficial decisions that override conflicting interests. Second, there must be the financing mechanisms in place to ensure that sufficient public and private funding, and micro-financing solutions are available to provide universal water access. These funding strategies must also be complementary. Third, governments with sound legal systems and stable institutions must be in place to ensure that regulations and business approaches are delivered effectively and accountably. This prevents the political and social instability that can catalyze water insecurity. This point is especially relevant since water resources are not evenly distributed between geographic regions; arid regions being (such as the Middle East and North Africa) impacted more severely. As such, an inability to cooperate may lead to interregional conflicts over water resources.

Objective

The objective of this ICCG Hot Topic is to develop and communicate the analysis of the environmental, social, economic and political issues around water security.  This understanding can be used for both distance learning and to inform policy discussions at the national and international level. This Hot Topic follows the Aquae Venice (the collateral Pavillon of EXPO Milan 2015) focus, also intends to provide a platform through which initiatives can converge and ideas can be shared. The tools and their implications are intended to be relevant and useful globally.

Below is a list of actions taken by ICCG in the field of Water Security studies, and a list of other relevant sources for the hot topic.

The Water-Energy-Food Nexus I. Alloisio, The Water-Energy-Food Nexus, ICCG Reflection, July 2015
Climate Change and Water Availability for Food Production Series of articles on the Best Climate Practices observatory, 2015
United Nations World Water Development Report 2017, Wastewater: The Untapped Resource WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme). 2017. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017: Wastewater, The Untapped Resource. Paris, UNESCO.
United Nations World Water Development Report 2015, Water for a Sustainable World WWAP (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme). 2015. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2015: Water for a Sustainable World. Paris, UNESCO.
Water in the World We Want Report UNU-INWEH 2015