The U.S. Government 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. Achieving water security requires understanding how complicated and interconnected social, environmental, political, and economic factors shape access to safe drinking water and sustainable management of water resources.
This issue of Water Currents shares current research and perspectives on various aspects of water security. A special thanks to USAID’s Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) team for co-curating this issue. For updates about SWP, sign up for their monthly newsletter or visit their website.
Water Security and WASH
Effect of Deforestation on Access to Clean Drinking Water. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2019. Researchers in Malawi found that heavy deforestation in the country during the last decade has had the same effect on access to clean drinking water as that of a 9 percent decrease in rainfall.
Systems Thinking and WASH: Tools and Case Studies for a Sustainable Water Supply. Practical Action, February 2019. This book explores the different applications of systems thinking used by an interdisciplinary group of WASH researchers and practitioners, while helping to imagine different ways to understand and work with communities, development agencies, and governments.
Water Security and Water Safety Plans (WSP)
Capacity Building and Training Approaches for Water Safety Plans: A Comprehensive Literature Review. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, February 2019. The authors propose a WSP training taxonomy and discuss it in relation to the stages of learning (introduction, practice, and reinforcement). They highlight the relevance of auditing for evaluating change over time and call for robust methods to monitor WSP capacity development.
A Guide to Equitable Water Safety Planning: Ensuring No One is Left Behind. WHO, April 2019. This document describes how, with relatively modest efforts, the WSP approach can bring tangible improvements in water quality and availability to all users.
Water Safety Planning: What Have We Learned So Far? WHO, May 2019. WSPs have been implemented in at least 93 countries, with 46 countries reporting they have policies or regulations in place that promote or require water safety plans.
Water Security and Water Resources Management
Water Security in Practice: The Quantity-Quality-Society Nexus. Water Security, December 2018. The complex interactions of water quantity, water quality, and associated societal interactions influence water security in practical society, prompting a growing call to consider water security in a more integrated manner.
The Future of Water: A Collection of Essays on ‘Disruptive’ Technologies that May Transform the Water Sector in the Next 10 Years. Inter-American Development Bank, April 2019. In this report, experts identify what they believe to be the key technological changes that will transform the sector and whether they have the potential to become disruptive.
Synthesizing Water Quality Indicators from Standardized Geospatial Information to Remedy Water Security Challenges: A Review. Environment International, July 2018. This review highlights the water security conundrum and provides an overview of methods for integrating geolocated qualitative data with quantitative data into a water quality index.
How Important Is Gender in Transboundary Groundwater Governance? A Question for the Ramotswa Aquifer in Southern Africa. wH2O The Journal of Gender and Water, February 2019. The authors of this paper assess how legal instruments on gender and transboundary water resources influence equality for women and men.
Water Security and Hydrology
Can We Constrain Uncertainty in Hydrologic Cycle Projections? AGU, April 2019. Understanding how precipitation changes with warming is critically important for anticipating and responding to climate change, but climate models still disagree on many aspects of the relationship between the two.
Global Patterns and Dynamics of Climate–Groundwater Interactions. Nature, January 2019. Adaptation strategies must account for the hydraulic memory of groundwater systems, which can buffer climate change impacts on water resources in many regions but may also lead to long-term impacts on river flows and groundwater-dependent ecosystems.
Hydrologic Modeling: Progress and Future Directions. Geoscience Letters, May 2018. Starting with a brief history of hydrologic modeling, this paper discusses progress in hydrologic modeling since the advent of computers and what the future may have in store.
Water Security and Climate
Defining 'Water Resilience': Debates, Concepts, Approaches, and Gaps. WIREs Water, December 2018. Resilience-informed water governance literature remains fragmented and predominantly centered on conventional approaches and framings of water planning.
Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA): Collaborative Water Resources Planning for an Uncertain Future. International Centre for Integrated Water Resources Management, October 2018. The CRIDA approach provides a framework to enable water managers and policy makers to assess the impact of climate uncertainty on their water resources and adapt accordingly.
Preparing to Adapt: The Untold Story of Water in Climate Change Adaptation Processes. Global Water Partnership, December 2018. This report investigated whether countries intended to invest not only in infrastructure but also in the necessary management and governance structures needed to manage water under the challenges associated with a changing climate.
DOs and DON'Ts for Using Climate Change Information for Water Resource Planning and Management: Guidelines for Study Design. Climate Services, September 2018. Incorporating climate change information into water resource planning is challenging, as that information is constantly evolving. This review consists of nine guidelines for water managers and planners that highlight practices for incorporating climate change information into their planning processes.
What Climate Models Get Wrong About Future Water Availability. EOS, April 2019. The wide range of scenarios presented by climate models can make it difficult for cities, states, and countries to plan ahead. A new study suggests a way to reduce uncertainty using precipitation patterns from the past.
Water Security and Nature-Based Solutions
Emerging Lessons for Mainstreaming Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: Strategic Entry Points and Processes. GIZ, 2019. Ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) is a nature-based solution that harnesses biodiversity and ecosystem services to reduce vulnerability and build resilience to climate change. This report highlights the emergence of some related concepts such as ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction and common patterns for mainstreaming processes of EBA.
Is Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Effective? Perceptions and Lessons Learned from Thirteen Project Sites. International Institute for Environment and Development, 2019. The results of this report show that stakeholders perceive EBA as able to improve the resilience or adaptive capacity of local communities or reduce their vulnerability to climate change.
Integrating Green and Gray—Creating Next Generation Infrastructure. World Bank; World Resources Institute (WRI), March 2019. Integrating nature into mainstream infrastructure systems can result in lower costs and more resilient services. The World Bank and WRI are calling for green infrastructure, such as mangroves and wetlands, to play a bigger role in traditional infrastructure planning.
Core Principles for Successfully Implementing and Upscaling Nature-Based Solutions. Environmental Science and Policy, August 2019. This critical analysis of the principles of nature-based solutions can inform the review and revision of those principles, while serving as the foundation for the development of standards for the successful implementation of these solutions.
Incorporating Environmental Flows into ‘Water Stress’ Indicator 6.4.2—Guidelines for a Minimum Standard Method for Global Reporting. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2019. These guidelines can help countries participate in the assessment of the sustainable development goal on water stress by contributing data and information on environmental flows.
Environmental Flows Technical Guidance Manual. SWP, October 2018. USAID missions and partners can use this manual to better understand the importance of environmental flow regimes and their benefits to water security and sustainable development outcomes.
Water Security and Fragility
Water Management in Fragile Systems: Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises in the Middle East and North Africa. FAO; World Bank, March 2018. Fragility has become the reality in several countries of the Middle East and North Africa. This paper discusses the relationship between fragility and water and explores how it should be addressed.
Water, Security, and Conflict. WRI; Pacific Institute, August 2018. This paper summarizes the current understanding of water and security threats and their links to conflict, migration, and food insecurity.
Water Security in the Protracted Crises and Post-Conflict Reconstruction of the Middle East. Overseas Development Institute, April 2018. Sustainable, equitable, and resilient water services should be supported over the short- and long-term during protracted crises and for post-crisis reconstruction in the Middle East and North Africa.
Water as a Tool for Resilience in Times of Crisis. New Security Beat, May 2019. This blog post features a write-up and recording of “Water as a Tool for Resilience in Times of Crisis,” an event sponsored by the Wilson Center, Winrock International, SWP, and USAID.
Water Security in an Uncertain Future: Enhancing Water Resources Management and Planning by Reducing Climate- and Weather-Related Risks. ClimateLinks, May 2019. At a meeting in April, a panel of experts discussed lessons learned from three ongoing USAID-funded projects that are working to inform water management decision-making processes and leverage investments for resilience and water security.
The Intersection of Global Fragility and Climate Risks. USAID, September 2018. This study examines highly fragile states with exposure to multiple climate hazards.
Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile Contexts. World Bank, March 2017. This report discusses how water security is more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts due to a range of factors, including weak institutions and information systems, strained human and financial resources, and degraded infrastructure.
Water Security Toolkits
The Sustainable Water Partnership has published six toolkits on water security:
Toolkit #1 - Improving Water Security, 2017. The first in this series of toolkits provides a brief introduction to water security, as well as a detailed walk through a five-step water security improvement (WSI) process.
Toolkit #2 – Water Security Assessment, 2017. 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 near future.
Toolkit #3 – Water Security Planning, 2017. Water security planning must follow eight WSI guiding practices. These include: A pragmatic focus on specific water risks; engagement and mobilization of water risks; and a “systems thinking” approach to address causes and not just symptoms.
Toolkit #4 – Funding Water Security, 2018. Financing can come from government taxes, user tariffs, international aid transfers, and private sector investments. The type of water security activity often determines the type of financing that will be most readily available.
Toolkit #5 – Water Security Implementation, 2018. The success of a WSI process depends on the implementation of activities or measures defined through collaborative planning and decision-making with the purpose of addressing and mitigating priority water risks now and in the future.
Toolkit #6 – Monitoring the Improvement of Water Security, 2018. The overall goal of M&E is to improve decision-making and performance over time to achieve better results. It also empowers and builds the capacity of all actors through transparency and accountability.