US Foreign Policy Now Prioritizes Water Security

US Foreign Policy Now Prioritizes Water Security

In the recently-announced White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, the US has identified water scarcity as a national security issue for the first time in history. The strategy promotes access to “acceptable quality water” and sustainable water systems inside and outside its borders. With nearly 50% of the world’s population at risk of experiencing “severe water stress” by 2030 due to climate change, the plan calls on the US to become a global leader in water security.

“This action plan will help our country prevent conflict and advance cooperation among nations, increase equity and economic growth, and make our world more inclusive and resilient,” Vice President Kamala Harris stated in a speech announcing the strategy. “Water security is a global problem, and it must be met with a global solution.”

The Hill: Kamala Harris WARNS wars will be fought over water, not oil, April 7, 2021.

Strait Talk: Middle East Suffers Through Worst Drought in Decades, December 14, 2021.

Why This Matters

Experts assert that the world has entered a “new era of risk” on both environmental and social fronts. A lack of access to water corresponds to an increase in conflict -- as water security declines, economic growth, food production, and human health do as well. Climate change only exacerbates these issues. Already, we’ve seen a widespread increase in poverty and migration in nations across the globe. Experts estimate that climate change will lead to the displacement of 200 million people over the next 20 years. The development and maintenance of resilient water systems are essential to defending the most vulnerable from the worst effects of what the Department of Defense has called a “global and cross-cutting” national security threat.

National Geographic: Global Water Wars (Full Episode) | Parched, July 29, 2021.

ProPublica: How the Climate Crisis Will Force A Massive American Migration, November 10, 2020.

WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis, September 9, 2020.

Investing In Vulnerable Communities

Water stress and climate change -- the great “threat multiplier” -- are inextricably linked. The world’s most vulnerable -- at home and abroad -- face the greatest risks. While the new strategy is a national security document with a global focus, for an Administration promising a “foreign policy for the middle class,” it does refer back to the challenges faced by the US. For example, it refers to a more targeted direction for the $63 billion allocated toward domestic water and sanitation infrastructure investments under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“From rural towns to struggling cities, the legislation will invest in water infrastructure, including in Tribal Nations and overburdened and underserved communities that need it most,” the White House stated.

ABC: Climate change and national security, October 25, 2021.

WW0: Newsmaker of the Week - Jacob Morrison, director of River's End, October 28, 2021.

Arab Center Washington DC: The Impact of Climate Change and Environmental Injustice in the Middle East and North Africa, April 28, 2022.