WASHINGTON, March 23, 2012- The intelligence community released a Global Water Security assessment yesterday, which determines that water shortages will contribute to unrest and instability in many regions within the next decade. 

“Between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources,” states the report. “Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth.”

North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia will face the most pressure as populations increase. Many countries already experience high “water stress,” which is when the annual renewable freshwater supplies are below 1,700 cubic meters per person per year, according to the report. Those countries include the western United States, northern Africa, southern Africa, the Middle East, Australia and parts of southern Asia and China. 

“During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will almost certainly experience water problems — shortages, poor water quality, or floods — that will contribute to the risk of instability and state failure, and increase regional tensions,” the report said. “Additionally states will focus on addressing internal water-related social disruptions which will distract them from working with the United States on important policy objectives.”

Beyond ten years, the report warns that water in shared basins will increasingly be used as leverage and the use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives will become more likely. 

The report said that improvements in agricultural water management, including the use of drip irrigation systems, could ease the potential for shortages. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the world’s water use. 

“The greatest potential for relief from water scarcity will be through technology that reduces the amount of water needed for agriculture,” states the report. “Over the long term, without actions, the exhaustion of groundwater sources will cause food production to decline and food demand will have to be satisfied through increasingly stressed global markets.”

Suggested approaches in the report to reduce the amount of water needed for agriculture include large-scale drip-irrigation systems, research to develop drought resistance in crops and development of food plants that can tolerate salt or waste water.

The report pointed out that the developing world is likely to rely on the United States, as a leader in technology, for the data and facilitation of efficient use of water in agriculture, as well as water treatment and purification. 


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