Global Water Security Center

Providing decision makers with the most reliable, ground-breaking research, applied scientific techniques, and best practices so that the hydrologic cycle and its potential impacts can be put in a context for appropriate action and response by the United States

Why Water Security is Important

Water is essential for life – drinking, agriculture, energy, industrial production, and maintaining the environment around us.  Yet as demand for water grows while uncertainty caused by changes to the physical environment increases, many communities around the world already face water crises that compound the impacts of disease and poverty, exacerbate food and energy insecurity, undermine economic growth, and reduce biodiversity. As the 2017 U.S. Global Water Strategy stated, “Water may be the most important issue we face for the next generation.”

The wide-ranging effects of water scarcity impact United States national and foreign policy objectives, making water a critical consideration in the nation’s security strategy. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) noted in a 2020 memorandum that over the next 20 to 30 years, some countries—particularly those affected by severe drought—will be unable to adequately address water challenges, risking internal political instability and interstate geopolitical competition. In 2021, the National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change reiterated that the future will see country instability (strain on energy and food systems; negative health consequences; internal insecurity and conflict; greater demand for aid and humanitarian relief; strain on military readiness) as well as geopolitical flashpoints (cross-border water tension and conflict; migration) resulting from water insecurity.

“Droughts, water scarcity, and other natural resource limitations could exacerbate national security threats and the resiliency of governments as competition over scarce resources can lead to conflict,” according to a November 2020 Department of Defense (DoD) report. “These challenges [will] require the DoD to develop long term strategies and plans to reduce its vulnerabilities and to address the threats to military infrastructure and personnel readiness.”