Growing conflicts over who owns water and how to manage it are emerging all over the world. Although debates at the UN and among civil society have moved toward the recognition of water as a basic human right, the United States still lags behind. Washington has instead largely supported private-sector approaches that will likely exacerbate conflicts over water resources. What is perhaps new is that the U.S. intelligence community is also looking at water as a potential national security concern.
A report led by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Global Water Security attempts to answer the question, “How will water problems (shortages, poor water quality, or floods) impact U.S. national security interests over the next 30 years.” The report focuses on trans-boundary water issues in seven river basins associated with countries that are identified as strategically important for U.S. security: Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Jordan, Mekong, Brahmaputra, Indus, and Amu Darya. Except for the Nile, these rivers are all in Asia, and together these basins are home to over 1.5 billion people. The national intelligence community judged “that these examples are sufficient to illustrate the intersections between water challenges and US national security.”