Water Politics in the 21st Century
Juliet Christian-Smith, Pacific Institute, Oakland, CA, USA
Water quantity and/or quality is of increasing concern around the world. The Pacific Institute tracks conflicts over water around the world, which have been increasing in recent years as new pressures, coupled with persistent challenges, are having drastic impacts on the world’s fresh water supply. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that the world’s already-stressed freshwater systems are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. While we must develop better understanding of the hydrologic, chemical, and ecologic aspects of freshwater systems, we must also better understand how the political framework of water management influences water supply and demand, and how water governance – including institutions, laws, treaties, and regulations – can help us adapt to the challenges of the 21st century.
This talk will address the social and political framework around water management, beginning with an introduction to the Pacific Institute’s water conflict chronology. Using a geographically-explicit mapping tool, conflicts over water have been documented from 3000 BC to today. The talk will draw attention to the social dimensions of water access and allocation. The talk will then examine potential impacts of new and persistent pressures on water resources including management of shared river basins and the impacts of climate change on international water treaties, the increasing attention to the water-energy-food nexus and their integration in policy, and the international movement towards integrated regional water management. Can new institutional structures and areas of policy integration help people and countries respond to tensions around water resources? A series of case studies will describe where and how they have, and also where some governance systems fall short.