Water security has been defined as “the reliable availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risk. It is realized to the degree that water scarcity is non-existent, or has been decreased or eliminated, and to the degree that floods and contamination of freshwater supplies are non-threatening.
“Sustainable development will not be achieved without a water secure world. A water secure world integrates a concern for the intrinsic value of water with a concern for its use for human survival and well-being.
A water secure world harnesses water’s productive power and minimizes its destructive force. Water security also means addressing environmental protection and the negative effects of poor management.
It is also concerned with ending fragmented responsibility for water and integrating water resources management across all sectors – finance, planning, agriculture, energy, tourism, industry, education and health.
A water secure world reduces poverty, advances education, and increases living standards. It is a world where there is an improved quality of life for all, especially for the most vulnerable usually women and children who benefit most from good water governance.
The areas of the world that are most likely to have water insecurity are places with low rainfall, places with rapid population growth in a freshwater scarce area, and areas with international competition over a water source
Background to water security
Water security is achieved when there is enough water for everyone in a region and the water supply is not at risk of disappearing.
According to the Pacific Institute “While regional impacts will vary, global climate change will potentially alter agricultural productivity, freshwater availability and quality, access to vital minerals, coastal and island flooding, and more.
Among the consequences of these impacts will be challenges to political relationships, realignment of energy markets and regional economies, and threats to security.
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It impacts regions, states and countries. Tensions exist between upstream and downstream users of water within individual jurisdictions. During history there has been much conflict over use of water from rivers such as the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Another highly politicized example is Israel’s control of water resources in the Levant region since its creation, where Israel securing its water resources was one of several drivers for the 1967 Six-Day War.
Water allocation between competing users is increasingly determined by application of market-based pricing for either water licenses or actual water. Water, in absolute terms, is not in short supply planet-wide.
But, according to the United Nations water organization, UN-Water, the total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is only about 200,000 km3 of water – less than one percent (<1%) of all freshwater resources.
Usable fresh water includes water not contaminated or degraded by water-altering chemicals, such as sewage or any other harmful chemicals from continuous previous use.
In the 20th century, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of the population increase. Specifically, water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries, and 18 per cent in developed countries.
One continent, for example, Africa, has been predicted to have 75 to 250 million inhabitants lacking access to fresh water. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.
By 2050, more than half of the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas, and another billion may lack sufficient water, MIT researchers find.
Threat to water security
The most common threat to water security is water scarcity. There can be several causes to water scarcity including low rainfall, climate change, high population density, and over allocation of a water source.
An example of periodic water scarcity in the United States is droughts in California. Another category of threats to water security is environmental threats. These include contaminates such as biohazards (biological substances that can harm humans), climate change and natural disasters.
Contaminants can enter a water source naturally through flooding. Contaminants can also be a problem if a population switches their water supply from surface water to groundwater.
Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires can damage man-made structures such as dams and fill waterways with debris. Other threats to water security include terrorism and radiation due to a nuclear accident.
International competition over water can arise when one country starts drawing more water from a shared water source. This is often the most efficient route to getting needed water, but in the long term can cause conflict if water is over- drafted.
More than 50 countries on five continents are said to be at risk of conflict over water.
China, is constructing dams on the Mekong, leaving Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand without same amount of water as before investment. A huge project of reversing the flow of the Brahmaputra (Chinese: Tsangpo) river, which after leaving Chinese Tibet flows through India and Bangladesh.
The struggle for water in some afflicted regions has led inhabitants to hiring guards in order to protect wells. Moreover, Amu Daria River, shared by Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which has been nearly completely dried out, so much so that it has ceased to reach the Aral Sea/Lake, which is evaporating in an alarming pace.
The fact that Turkmenistan retains much of the water before it flows into Uzbekistan.
In Australia there is competition for the resources of the Darling River system between Queensland, New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia. In Victoria, Australia a proposed pipeline from the Goulburn Valley to Melbourne has led to protests by farmers.
The Australian Government has implemented buy-backs of water allocations, or properties with water allocations, to endeavor to increase environmental flows.
In India, there is competition for water resources of all inter-state rivers except the main Brahmaputra river among the riparian states of India and also with neighboring countries which are Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, etc.
Vast area of the Indian subcontinent is under tropical climate which is conducive for agriculture due to favorable warm and sunny conditions provided perennial water supply is available to cater to the high rate of evapo-transpiration from the cultivated land.
Though the overall water resources are adequate to meet all the requirements of the subcontinent, the water supply gaps due to temporal and spatial distribution of water resources among the states and countries in the subcontinent are to be bridged.
Water security can be achieved along with energy security as it is going to consume electricity to link the surplus water areas with the water deficit areas by lift canals, pipe lines, etc. The total water resources going waste to the sea are nearly 1200 billion cubic meters after sparing moderate environmental / salt export water requirements of all rivers. Interlinking rivers of the subcontinent is possible to achieve water security in the Indian subcontinent with the active cooperation of the countries in the region.
In conclusion, according to Nature (2010), about 80% of the world’s population (5.6 billion in 2011) live in areas with threats to water security. The water security is a shared threat to human and nature and it is pandemic. Human water-management strategies can be detrimental to wildlife, such as migrating fish