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Water security has been used as an umbrella term to help frame the world’s many complicated and interconnected water challenges--from safe drinking water access to resource sustainability and conflicts.
The U.S. government’s new Global Water Strategy sets water security as its overarching goal. The strategy envisions a water-secure world, where people and nations have the water they need to be healthy, prosperous, and resilient. In support of the strategy, USAID seeks to increase sustainable safe water and sanitation for the underserved, and emphasizes the need to strengthen governance and financing in the water sector.
This week’s edition of Water Currents shares various perspectives on water security and a timely collection of related resources. A special thanks to USAID’s Sustainable Water Partnership team for co-curating this issue. For updates about the partnership, sign upfor their monthly newsletter or visit their website.
The Challenge of Too Much Water: Ensuring Sustainable Water, Resilient Communities. USAID Sustainable Water Partnership; Winrock International, December 5, 2017. Those living in the Washington, D.C., area are welcome to attend a panel discussion on The Challenge of Too Much Water at the Wilson Center on December 5, 9:30-11:30 a.m. The event will also be webcast live here and a recording provided for later viewing. The event is part of SWP’s “Sustainable Water, Resilient Communities” series.
Global Water Strategy to Create a More Water-Secure World. U.S. Department of State; USAID, November 2017. The Global Water Strategy envisions a water-secure world, where people and nations have the water they need to be healthy, prosperous, and resilient. More than 17 U.S. government agencies and departments contributed to the development of this strategy.
Water Security and US Foreign Policy. World Wildlife Foundation, 2017. Using 18 case studies, this book provides a framework to help policymakers, scholars, and researchers better understand the intersection of U.S. foreign policy with the environment and sustainability issues, and interpret the impacts of water-driven social disruptions on the stability of partner governments and U.S. interests abroad.
A Dynamic Framework for Water Security. Water Security, July 2017. Water security is a multi-faceted problem, going beyond mere balancing of supply and demand. This paper presents a more flexible and dynamic set of indicators for water security that account for human action and adaptation in the face of environmental change and other causes of water insecurity.
Challenges in Meeting Water Security and Resilience. Water International, May 2017.
This article addresses several water security questions, including: 1) What is water security, and is it related to food security, energy security, health security, and ecological security? 2) What factors impact water security? 3) What are the challenges in meeting water security?
Advancing Human Capabilities for Water Security: A Relational Approach. Water Security, July 2017. Fully understanding water security means looking beyond access, quality, or availability of water. The authors argue that water security must factor in the complex political, social, and cultural dimensions that are not easily captured by standardized metrics.
The Human Face of Water Security. Springer, March 2017. The central idea of water security is its focus on the individual. This collection of essays from academics and practitioners from diverse areas and perspectives helps to illuminate that central premise, adding a “human face” to the discussion on water security.
Uncharted Waters: The New Economics of Water Scarcity and Variability. World Bank, October 2017. The report looks at how the increasing number of droughts and floods impact farms, firms, and families in ways that are far costlier and longer lasting than known before. It also discusses how today’s ways of managing water are outdated and proposes solutions to manage water resources more efficiently.
Ecosystem-Based Adaptation and Water Security. USAID, 2017 This evidence summary provides information on how ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) approaches can support water security. EbA involves the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people and communities adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. The evidence summary explains that EbA can support water security by increasing water quantity and enhancing water quality, and minimizing impacts to water security from extreme weather events.
Thermometers of Change: Snow Leopard Diplomacy in Asia’s High Mountains. New Security Beat, November 2017. Koustubh Sharma of the Snow Leopard Trust states, “if you care about water security and climate resilience in Asia, you should also care about the integrity of the snow leopard’s habitat.”
Designing a Mixed-Methods Approach for Collaborative Local Water Security: Findings from a Kenyan Case Study. Exposure and Health, July 2017. The purpose of this research was to develop and pilot a mixed-methods-coupled systems (human and physical) approach to understand strengths, challenges, and health impacts associated with WASH in a rural Kenyan community. Both quantitative and qualitative data were used for the analysis.
Household Water Insecurity in the Global North: A Study of Rural and Periurban Settlements on the Texas–Mexico Border. The Professional Geographer, January 2016. This article examines household-level characteristics that predict water insecurity in low-income rural and peri-urban communities on the Texas–Mexico border. Two logistic regression models are used to identify household characteristics that are more likely to result in water insecurity.
The Cultural Dimensions of Household Water Security: The Case of Kathmandu’s Stone Spout Systems. Water International, November 2016. A study of Kathmandu’s ancient stone waterspouts asks why and how “traditional” water supply systems persist as a form of water provision, and examines governance arrangements that pose challenges to these systems. This article contributes to existing research on the cultural aspects of household water security.
Community Water Improvement, Household Water Insecurity, and Women’s Psychological Distress: An Intervention and Control Study in Ethiopia. PLOS ONE, April 2016. Improved measures of household water insecurity are required to inform needs assessments and monitoring and evaluation. This paper assesses the strengths and weaknesses of evaluating household water insecurity using a quantitative scale.
Who Carries the Weight of Water? Fetching Water in Rural and Urban Areas and the Implications for Water Security. Water Alternatives, June 2017. The global burden of fetching water, particularly its effects on individuals and societies, is largely unknown. This article presents a synthesis of the data on water-fetching from households in 23 countries to explore how the global burden of fetching water threatens water security, especially for women and girls living in poorer rural areas.
Reframing Women’s Empowerment in Water Security Programmes in Western Nepal. Gender and Development, July 2017. The concept of water security as a buzzword has the potential to focus policymakers and practitioners on the inequalities and injustices that lie behind the lack of access to affordable, safe, and clean water. Looking at four villages in western Nepal, the paper finds that differences between women (e.g., age, marital status, caste, remittance flow, and land ownership) led to some women benefiting more than others.
Population-Based Study of Intra-Household Gender Differences in Water Insecurity: Reliability and Validity of a Survey Instrument for Use in Rural Uganda. Journal of Water Health, April 2016. A new psychometric analysis tool called the Household Water Insecurity Access Scale found significant intra-household gender differences in perceptions of water insecurity, with female participants largely perceiving household water insecurity as being more severe compared to male participants.
Water Security Across the Gender Divide. Springer, October 2017. This is the first book-length text to offer a gender-differentiated analysis of water security that also shows the complex and multidimensional factors underpinning water security and gender, including geophysical, environmental, economic, and a variety of sociopolitical processes.
Systematic Risk Management Approach of Household Drinking Water from the Source to Point of Use. Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, March 2017. Promoted as a systematic approach to improving the safety of drinking water, water safety plans (WSPs) are being used on less traditional water service systems, such as public access points that require people to transport collected water back to their home. This study assesses household drinking water use to determine ways in which water security risks can be addressed and managed.
Climate-Resilient Water Safety Plans (WSP): Managing Health Risks Associated with Climate Variability and Change. World Health Organization (WHO), 2017. Targeting water suppliers and WSP teams that have already committed to using the WSP approach, this document identifies opportunities to enhance WSP processes and outcomes by considering the provision of safe water in sufficient quantity under the increasing uncertainties of climate variability and change.
Global Status Report on Water Safety Plans: A Review of Proactive Risk Assessment and Risk Management Practices to Ensure the Safety of Drinking-Water. WHO; International Water Association (IWA), 2017. Using data from 118 countries at different stages of implementing WSPs or similar water security risk management processes, this report presents a global snapshot of WSP practices that can be used to inform and improve future water safety planning.
Private Sector Engagement in the Water Security Improvement Process. SWP, September 2017. Improving the sustainability of a watershed requires active engagement with all major water users—particularly private sector actors, which can be large, impactful, and politically influential water users. However, engaging the private sector in broader water security efforts requires understanding their motivations and drivers, including their water risks and business opportunities.
Towards a Shared Understanding of Water Security Risks in the Public and Private Sectors. International Journal of Water Resources Development, April 2016. Based on a case study of a catchment near Grabouw, South Africa, this paper explores the knowledge and understanding of water risks by the private and public sectors. A conceptual framework is proposed, mapping the different water security risks. The article suggests that water management is improved when different actors acknowledge their shared water risks.
Framing a Multi-Stakeholder Approach to Water Security. IWA, May 2017. Water insecurity is a complex problem that requires input from multiple stakeholders. This article discusses water stewardship as a framework that champions multi-stakeholder solutions to complex water challenges at both the site- and catchment-level.
A Turning Tide: Tracking Corporate Action on Water Security. CDP Global Water Report 2017, November 2017. This report is aimed at companies and investors seeking to understand how they can play their part in delivering a water-secure world. It presents analysis of the 2017 CDP water response data from a sample of 742 of the world’s largest publicly listed companies.
Physical Water Scarcity Metrics for Monitoring Progress Towards SDG Target 6.4: An Evaluation of Indicator 6.4.2 ‘Level of Water Stress.’ Science of the Total Environment, September 2017. The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals includes a dedicated goal on water and sanitation. This article looks at progress toward addressing one part of that goal: water scarcity.
Reducing Inequalities in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals: Synthesis Report of the WASH Poverty Diagnostic Initiative. The World Bank, November 2017. This report provides new insights on how data can inform allocation decisions to reduce inequalities and prioritize investment in WASH to boost human capital.
The Role of Packaged Water in Meeting Global Targets on Improved Water Access.Journal of Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, September 2017. Packaged water (i.e., refill, bottled, or sachet water) has become an important water source for many low- and middle-income countries due to nonexistent or poor reliability of piped water infrastructure, but it has not been classified as improved or unimproved. Using survey data, four scenarios were designed and showed that the lack of classification of packaged water can impact evaluations up to the national and international level.
Valuing Water for Sustainable Development. Science, 2017. Newly recognized cascading negative impacts of water scarcity, pollution, and flooding underscore the need to change the way we value water. The UN/World Bank High Level Panel on Water launched the Valuing Water Initiative in 2017 to chart principles and pathways for valuing water. The authors outline four steps toward better valuation and management,examine recent advances in each of these areas, and argue that these four steps must be integrated to overcome the barriers that have stymied past efforts.
Groundwater and Human Development: Synergies and Trade-Offs within the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability Science, November 2017. Groundwater is essential to human development. This review article explores synergies and trade-offs between groundwater development and human development.
Water Security Websites and Tools
Sustainable Water Partnership Website. USAID; Winrock International. Implemented by a consortium of expert technical organizations and led by Winrock International, the Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) is a USAID water security program. With its website and innovative activities in Cambodia, Kenya, and Tanzania, SWP not only contributes to the global water security conversation, but also builds USAID missions’ capacity to approach global water risks more holistically.
Toolkit #1: Too Little, Too Much, Too Dirty, Too Erratic. SWP, August 2017. The first in a series of six toolkits, this publication introduces water security and SWP’s streamlined water security framework, the Water Security Improvement Process, which consists of an inception phase and five clearly outlined steps.
Toolkit #2: Water Security Assessment. SWP, November 2017. The second installment in the series, this toolkit presents Step 2: Water Security Assessment. Conducting a water security assessment is an essential step in the process of addressing water risks. It establishes a common and agreed-upon information base on the severity and extent of water risks, now and in the future.
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