A very succinct definition of water security was put forward by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science, and it is as follows:
“Water security…describes the fundamental societal goal of water policy and water management, whereby the productive potential of water is harnessed, and its destructive impact is limited.”
But what does this mean in practice? And why is it important?
These are exactly the questions that this article is going to answer. And we’ll also cover some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject along the way.
Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section that jumps out at you. Here goes…
About Water Security
For many years now, the United Nations has taken special interest in what it calls Water Security, and in 2013 they put forward a brief titled “Water Security and the Global Water Agenda”.
The UN-Water defines Water Security as “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.”
This is quite a lengthy definition and by being taken so seriously by an organization as big as the United Nations, it really highlights the importance of water security.
What’s more, the definition provided also demonstrates the multifaceted potential impact of such a policy.
The Outcomes Of Water Security
So, what will achieving this goal of water security look like in practice? Well, there are several outcomes that have been identified.
The most notable of which is the environmental outcome of the sustainability of water resources in terms of not only its availability across the globe, but also in terms of its quality.
There are also social outcomes, through the inclusivity of access to clean water for all users via improved affordability.
And there is also the economic outcome of the job creation involved in water security.
The Importance Of Water Security
Many of us have the pleasure of enjoying access to clean water. But sadly, clean water is not equally accessible across the globe, and the earth is in a position of water insecurity. And this is important because access to clean water is considered a basic human right.
The factors contributing to water insecurity are many-fold. They include water scarcity, water pollution, reduced water quality due to climate change, poverty, and water as a destructive force.
It has long been known that some areas suffer from water scarcity.
But this has recently been exacerbated by climate change, which not only reduces the availability of water but also makes its presence more unpredictable, causing serious supply issues in many parts of the globe.
On top of that, water quality is deteriorating due to urbanization and rising levels of pollution due to human activities. And extreme poverty means that not everyone can afford access to clean water.
Climate change is also bringing about more frequent floods as the climate crisis deepens, with harsh consequences for both poor and rich countries alike.
So, the goal of making clean water accessible to all is becoming more and more fraught over time. Which is why it’s so important that world leaders take action as soon as possible and set a good example for the rest of the world to follow.
Taking Steps To Achieve Global Water Security
Water security, as we have seen, is a somewhat lofty goal with several different aspects to it.
However, you will be pleased to learn that it is not just some pie-in-the-sky ideal, and there are strategies in place by some big players on the world stage to achieve this rather broad goal.
In their policy statement, the United Nations set out 17 sustainable development goals, so that the countries that take part can strive to achieve global water security by working towards these very specific goals.
More recently, in 2022, The Biden-Harris Administration of the White House released an action plan on global water security.
Here the White House lays out the problems faced by inadequate global water security, and divides it into more manageable areas (pillars) and sets out actionable steps in each of these areas.
Solving Water Insecurity And Achieving Water Security
By this point I think you’ll agree that as difficult as it may seem to achieve global security, it is a very noble endeavor, and something that all countries should strive for.
However, it’s certainly not something that can be achieved overnight. It’s going to require a great deal of planning and implementation. Not to mention patience, these things take consistent action over a long period of time.
And this problem is being sought to be solved as big problems often are by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Similarly, as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. And the more countries that get on board with the goal of global water security, the easier and more quickly it can (eventually) be achieved.
And we can confirm that it’s not just the United States that has goals, strategies and action plans in place to tackle the problem.
For example, Australia has been interested in water security for quite some time now.
And in Bangladesh, the government is implementing various programs to reduce coastal communities’ vulnerability to water-related hazards.
And in Ethiopia, with its droughts and two main rainy seasons per year they’ve also had to take action against their plight, and have partnered up with a number of organizations to improve water security for 18 million people who live in the basin.
Water security is clearly an admirable goal. It would ensure that everyone gets access to clean water and that we will be unaffected by droughts and floods. And as difficult as it may feel to achieve, it is something that we must all pull together for.
We may face great odds, but together we can achieve great things.