The issue of water security – access to enough quality water to make it possible to live safely – is a growing concern for many, just ask the communities of Flint and Corpus Christie. The problem is exacerbated when communities and companies come face-to-face over access to water supplies. Wouldn’t the nice idea be to share? That’s met with disagreements as well.
If you pay attention to water-related news internationally, you’ll find many high-profile examples of water security being called into question.
- There’s Flint, Michigan, where drinking water became contaminated after the community’s water source was changed from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River) to the Flint River. Improperly-treated Flint River water caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply.
- There are instances of industrial contamination making it impossible for communities to use their drinking water, like what recently took place in Corpus Christi, Texas. Residents were told by the city that, “Boiling, freezing, filtering, adding chlorine or other disinfectants, or letting the water stand will not make the water safe.”
- There are Canadian communities where water bottling companies are trying to lock-in access to water supplies to fulfill their business supply needs, sometimes working at cross purposes to town officials who want to ensure they have enough water for residents.
- In California, ongoing drought has led to a water crisis requiring creative solutions and new technology.
- Disputes about water supplies also cross borders. A longstanding water sharing disagreement between Pakistan and India has some worried that the nuclear-armed rivals might eventually be driven to war over water.
It’s clear to even the most casual observer that concerns around water security will continue to grow. There are some who suggest that water could be the next big driver of global conflict, as countries fight to secure sustainable supplies for their citizens. Lawmakers in the U.S. are calling for more testing and regulations to be put in place to protect rural drinking water supplies. In Canada, there are advocates for making groundwater an issue of national security, with Munk School of Global Affairs Director of The Program on Water Issues, Adèle Hurley, noting in a recent opinion-editorial that more than 10 million Canadians rely on groundwater for their drinking water supply.
Water security is a multifaceted issue with many competing interests and no quick and easy solutions at hand. Paying more attention to water management, testing and regulation will help protect at least some aspects of this incredibly valuable resource. It’s fair to say there will be much discussion to come as supplies of clean, quality water continue to decline.