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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced the formation of the U.S. Water Partnership (USWP), a new public-private organization connecting people, ideas, and resources to tackle the growing water crises throughout the world.
USWP represents a collaborative effort by NGOs, U.S. government agencies, and scientific and academic institutions to share knowledge and resources and to form partnerships to find solutions for increasing global water concerns. The Clean Water America Alliance, Coca-Cola Company, Procter & Gamble, and Rockefeller Foundation are some of the 22 partners supporting the organization.
During Secretary Clinton’s speech at this year’s World Water Day, she also spoke of the recently released Department of State report entitled “Global Water Security,” which outlines current water usage and how growing water tensions are predicted to impact U.S. national security interests. The Global Water Security report predicts that as water shortages become more critical beyond the next 10 years, shared water basins could be used as leverage and weapons, and dams, pipelines, and desalination plants could become targets for terrorism.
“Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods by themselves are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems—when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions—contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure,” stated the report.
The report estimates that by 2030 annual global water requirements will hit 6,900 billion cubic meters (40 percent above the current sustainable water supplies) as the 2025 projected world population nears 8 billion people—a 1.2 billion increase between 2009 and 2025.
Countries currently already experiencing “water stress” include the western United States, southern Africa, northern Africa, Australia, the Middle East, and sections of China and South Asia, according to the report. One-third of the world’s population by 2030 will reside near water basins with water deficits larger than 50 percent. NASA satellite data has shown that northern India is depleting water faster than “any other comparable region in the world,” cited the report.
Water scarcity forces affected populations to rely on unsafe water sources for drinking water, which increases the risks of cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, and other waterborne diseases, noted the report. According to a 2006 United Nations Human Development Report, one child dies from a water-related disease approximately every 15 seconds.
Decreased fresh water quality from salt-water intrusion and industrial, biofuel, agricultural, and sanitation processes, along with climate change, are contributing to increased water scarceness. Investments in water treatment, energy, and technology reducing the amount of water necessary for agriculture, along with improved water management, will offer the best solutions to water challenges.