March 23, 2012 in Nation/World

U.S. experts foresee global water woes

Renee Schoof McClatchy
Associated Press photo

A young Indian boy holds a pot after collecting water from a broken pipe in a slum on the outskirts of Mumbai, India, on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

Trouble spots

Intelligence analysts say the areas least-prepared for water-related problems are the basins of the Amu Darya and Brahmaputrarivers. The Amu Darya basin in Central Asia ( Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) is expected to have poorer food security throughout the next 30 years. The Brahmaputra basin ( Tibet, India, Bangladesh) is expected to have tensions over water-development projects, reduced potential for hydropower after 2020 and reduced food security, especially for fisheries. In northern India, too much use of ground water could leave millions of people without enough food and water.

WASHINGTON – Floods and water shortages in the next 30 years will make it hard for many countries to keep up with growing demand for fresh water, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S. intelligence community reported Thursday.

Water problems in the next decade will add to instability in countries that are important to U.S. national security, the report said. Floods and shortages also will make it hard for some countries to grow enough food or produce enough energy, creating risk for global food markets and slowing economic growth.

“I think it’s fair to say the intelligence community’s findings are sobering,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who requested the report last year. “These threats are real and they do raise serious security concerns.”

Clinton, speaking at an event to mark World Water Day, announced a new U.S. Water Partnership, made up of private companies, philanthropy and advocacy groups, academics and government. The group will coordinate efforts to solve water problems and make U.S. expertise more accessible.

“We believe this will help map out our route to a more water-secure world,” Clinton said.

The intelligence assessment, drafted by the Defense Intelligence Agency with contributions from the CIA and other agencies, was aimed at answering how water problems will affect U.S. national security interests.

Some findings:

• Agriculture, which takes 68 percent of the water used by humans, is one of the biggest areas where countries need to find solutions to water problems. Desalination may be economical for household and industrial use, but it isn’t currently economical for agriculture.

• Wars over water are unlikely in the next decade. Still, as water shortages worsen, countries that share water basins may struggle to protect their water rights. And terrorists “almost certainly” will target water infrastructure.

• Industrial demand for water will remain high, because water is needed to generate power, run industry and extract oil, gas and other resources. This means that water shortages and pollution likely will harm the economies of “important trading partners” of the United States.

The report covers the period to 2040.

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