What Does it Take to Cooperate? Transboundary Water Management Around the World
By Carolyn Lamere / Monday, May 6, 2013
Water is the foundation of human society and will become even more critical as population growth, development, and climate change put pressure on already-shrinking water resources in the years ahead. But will this scarcity fuel conflict between countries with shared waters, as some have predicted, or will it create more impetus for cooperation?
At the Wilson Center on April 11,
experts from USAID, the U.S. Department of State, World Bank, United
Nations Development Program, Stimson Center, Global Environment
Facility, and Stockholm International Water Institute described the
opportunities and challenges surrounding international water
Not Conflict, But Stress and Tension
Aaron Salzberg, special coordinator for water resources in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs,
noted that while water can be a source of tension, countries
historically tend to cooperate rather than fight over it. But
water-related problems, including shortages and issues related to
quality and food availability, can exacerbate already-existing tensions
and distract countries from working on other priorities.
Many major water basins like the Nile and the Indus are now “closed,” said David Michel, director of the Environmental Security Program at the Stimson Center.
That is, all of their water has been allocated for human and ecosystem
use. If too much water is used, quality can diminish to the point where
it is unusable even for industrial purposes. But demand in these regions
– both through population increases and changes in usage – is still
increasing, adding pressure to at- or above-capacity systems. The tight
margins in these basins means that the stakes are higher for riparian
countries and there is less room to maneuver in treaty negotiations.”
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