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Reframing the Water Security Dialogue

This article is by Dan Tarlock and Patricia Wouters and was originally published in The Journal of Water Law

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Water security attracts considerable attention because it is linked to the growing body of evidence predicting the emergence of a global water crisis (now or soon in the future),1and urging us all to mobilise more effectively our human, environmental and economic resources as we `hurtle to a scary future'.2

17BoatontheAmazon.jpgThis shortarticle argues that we are witnessing the formation of the perfect storm of food, water and energy shortages caused by a combination of population growth,triggering new rural and urban demands, and global climate change, which threatens to decrease the net available supply in many areas of the globe and to aggravate already contaminated supplies.3

As a result,the increased incidences of local and regional water problems might now be more accurately described as comprising a global water security problem. This article examines, through the prism of international law, the evolution of the notion of the global water security discourse, from its origins, through its development to its phoenix-like appearance in security studies, and calls for a radical reframing of the prevailing dialogue. We argue that the real challenges arising from this arena are less likely to be armed conflict, than the need for innovative thinking about the topic, including the investigation for new legal rules, management regimes and smart development project funding to help alleviate water stresses, and founded upon the fundamental premises of the rule of law, which, in a watercourse context, guarantees all riparian nations (and users) the equitable and reasonable use of the fresh waters from their shared rivers and aquifers. 

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Tarlock, D. and Wouters, P. (2009). Reframing the water security dialogue. J. Water Law. 20 (2-3), 53-60

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