By Dr. Peter Gleick, President Emeritus of the Pacific Institute
On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 116-92), including the Intelligence Authorization Act of FY2020. Section 6722 of that law required a report be prepared on the national security effects of “global water insecurity” and be submitted within 180 days (by late June 2020) to “the congressional intelligence committees, the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.”
The Trump administration failed to deliver this report on time, finally releasing the unclassified version three days after the November 2020 election. That report, “Water Insecurity Threatening Economic Growth, Political Stability” (National Intelligence Council Memorandum NICM-2020-05949) was sent from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on November 6th – though it is dated July 10, 2020 – to the congressional committees noted in the Act as well as House and Senate leadership.
The report concludes that “Governments, industry, and civil society are facing an increasing risk of water insecurity as demand grows and supply is increasingly strained.” It attributes these increased risks to “development practices, agriculture, and environmental degradation” and to “poor governance and resource management” that affect both water availability and quality.
It also notes that while most of these risks will be experienced in developing countries, “some developed countries will also experience water strains” and the countries that experience water problems will suffer health and disease problems, growing economic and social inequality, reduced economic growth, and “a greater risk of internal political instability.” For countries that share water resources, water is likely to become a flashpoint for geopolitical competition.