The Holy Grail Of Water Security

Posted on | november 13, 2011 | No Comments

Water Security is a situation of reliable and secure access to water. When we project this definition on a national perspective things start to get really complex. Reliability of water source is dependent on few factors:

  • Population growth
  • Food production
  • Climatic change and variability
  • Land use
  • Water quality
  • Water demand
  • Sectoral resources and institutional capacity
  • Poverty and economic policy
  • Legislation and water resource management
  • International waters
  • Sectoral professional capacity
  • Political realities
  • Sociological issues

When the question of security comes to discussion, the first issue that becomes relevant is whether all the sources of freshwater of the country are within the geo-political boundary of the sovereign state. That is the most preferred situation because in that case one country does not have to depend on others. The next task remains only managing the sources.

As I have already pointed out in ‘Think About It’ platform in my posts Can Water dissolve geo-political boundaries Part 1 and 2, when God distributed the freshwater sources, He did not know about Nation States. So most countries share transboundary water sources and in effect depend on each other. This dependency can be determined quantitatively (pardon me for being a little bit mathematical, but I guarantee it’s not beyond junior school level) and expressed as dependency factors:

  • If Actual Surface Water entering into the country = A,
  • Actual Ground Water entering into the country = B,
  • Total Internal Renewable Water resources of the country = C; A,B,C expressed in Km3/year.
  • Then, Dependency Factor of a Country = 100*[A+B]/[A+B+C]
  • Note that, A and B are clearly indicative of transboundary source of water.
  • A calculation like this is actually possible and is done by Aquastat, where you can check your countries Water Balance Sheet position.

A bar chart is given below which shows, in ascending order, the Dependency Factors of some countries. I have tried to choose as many countries as possible (except Macedonia, Moldova and Serbia for which I could not find the data).

To enlarge, click on chart

It is interesting to see that Egypt is 96.87% dependent on transboundary water, Bahrain following closely at 96.55%. It is an interesting question how these countries can ever be water secure with that high degrees of Dependency Factors.

On the other hand, big countries like China, Australia and Spain are zero water dependent. Australia naturally as it is an island continent, but China and Spain sting pretty within neighbors who depend on their water.

The zero water dependent countries are by no means water secure, as there are reliability issues as stated above, but in the current political situation of structured anarchy, these countries yield enormous negotiating power with other countries and such power is expected to increase critically in a progressively water scarce world.

Feature Image Courtesy : Water Governance Blog

AUTHOR: Pabitra Mukhopadhyay
E-MAIL: mukhopadhyay.pabitra [at]


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