US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned of the risk of terrorism, political instability and conflict over competition for scarce water supplies worldwide over the next few decades.
Mrs Clinton highlighted risks outlined in the unclassified version of a report on global water security – which she had requested – that was released by the National Intelligence Council.
“I think it’s fair to say the intelligence community’s findings are sobering,” she said about the report that focused on the potential water problems between now and 2040.
A summary of the report said North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia “will face major challenges coping with water problems”, particularly as a result of population growth and increased economic demand.
Climate change is a third factor likely to be more strongly pronounced in the later decades.
“As the world’s population continues to grow, demand for water will go up but our fresh water supplies will not keep pace,” Mrs Clinton said in a speech at the State Department.
Mrs Clinton underscored concerns in the report that terrorists could attack dams and other infrastructure ensuring supplies of water to people, agriculture or industry. Or water could be used as a “political tool”, she said.
“These difficulties will all increase the risk of instability within and between states,” she said.
“Within states they could cause some states to fail outright. And between and among states, you could see regional conflicts among states that share water basins be exacerbated and even lead to violence.”
The report predicted a water-related, state-on-state conflict during the next 10 years and that it would be used for leverage. Water would be used by terrorists to further their objectives.