Dustin Garrick on Water Security

From the recent conference in Oxford:

New book on water security

A recent publication on water security from Routledge looks interesting. It is edited by Bruce Lankford, Karen Bakker, Mark Zeitoun and Declan Conway and has quite a few other recognizable names as contributors.

Water Security
Principles, Perspectives and Practices9780415534710

The purpose of this book is to present an overview of the latest research, policy, practitioner, academic and international thinking on water security—an issue that, like water governance a few years ago, has developed much policy awareness and momentum with a wide range of stakeholders. As a concept it is open to multiple interpretations, and the authors here set out the various approaches to the topic from different perspectives.

Key themes addressed include:

  • Water security as a foreign policy issue
  • The interconnected variables of water, food, and human security
  • Dimensions other than military and international relations concerns around water security
  • Water security theory and methods, tools and audits.

The book is loosely based on a masters level degree plus a short professional course on water security both given at the University of East Anglia, delivered by international authorities on their subjects. It should serve as an introductory textbook as well as be of value to professionals, NGOs, and policy-makers.

Threads: Anthropocene, water security

I was trying to think of some clever theme that would weave a few interesting items together. It didn’t happen, but these things are worth checking out.

1. A new video from the editors-in-chief of Elementa on the journal and the Anthropocene.

2. A special issue on water security edited by a group from Oxford and appearing in the Philosophical Transactions A.

3. A new article on the long-term legacy of massive carbon loading in the atmosphere.

4. Another article on institutional ‘fit’ between coupled social-ecological systems, boundaries and organizations.

4a. A reminder on why ‘fit’ isn’t all its cracked up to be (open access).

Understanding the nexus matters

The idea of a water-energy-climate-food “nexus” is not only a buzz word, it is also a new discourse for policy and management. And there are a few items I’ve seen lately on it. One was this piece in the Guardian, suggesting we should punt the term.

I don’t see that happening any time soon. For several reasons. One is that journals, like Water Alternatives, have issued calls for special issues on the nexus. See here for details.

There is also an upcoming conference at UNC next MaAwp-circley on the topic, which there is still time to submit abstracts for.

Finally, there is this new site, Agripedia, that uses the nexus concept as a platform for organizing information on development.

Not that journals, conferences or websites make the world go round, but just to say that understanding the genesis and evolution of the nexus idea should be part of any critical repertoire in water management/policy studies. And that it will be interesting to see what kind of burden this concept comes to carry as it develops – particularly because it is often connected to the notion of water security.

Water commons, citizenship and security

An interesting post regarding this report (PDF). Here is the intro section:

“[The] water crisis is largely our own making. It has resulted not from the natural limitations of the water supply or lack of financing and appropriate technologies, even though these are important factors, but rather from profound failures in water governance.”
– United Nations Development Program report on water governance

“What we do to water, we do to ourselves and the ones we love.”
– From Popol Vuh , an ancient Mayan text , from: Future Generations at the Table: Governing and Managing Our Water Commons

Revolutionizing Water Management and Governance

In Cebu City, the Philippines, public sector workers like Zosimo Salcedo at the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) opposed Asian Development Bank financing that would purportedly increase the burgeoning city’s water supply. The financing sounded like a water workers dream – more infrastructure funds spells more jobs. So why was Zosimo Salcedo opposing the funds?

Contrary to common perceptions that workers are only concerned with preserving jobs and receiving higher pay, the union acted as stewards of the water commons. You might call them water citizens. They understood their responsibility as ‘carers’ of water, from catchment to storage to distribution. They didn’t measure their effectiveness simply in numbers of households connected to the grid but in conservation, watershed protection and raising questions about what increased debt would mean for the water system’s long-term financial and resource sustainability. They asked the hard question as to whether, in fact, the new infrastructure meant to extract more water would, in the long run, actually ensure continuous and increased water supply. Rather than tap new surface and groundwater sources, they concluded that it made more economic and ecological sense to conserve water through cheaper system repair and watershed protection.

What is extraordinary about this change in mindset is the emergence of a new consciousness that workers have an important role to play in tending, caring and nurturing water, even though their own daily work involved a minimalist technical role with water distribution alone. In effect, Salcedo and his colleagues in the MCWD workers union symbolized a fundamental restructuring of the relationship between the water workers, the water utility, the community and water itself. In this new consciousness and practice, which we call water citizenship, they sought to secure water for all, for all times.


The Water Resources Group wants to help manage your water

There is a new website up for The Water Resources Group. Those who have been following this group, which is part World Economic Forum, part IFC, part expert community may recall the report from 2009 about achieving Water Security by 2030 (pdf). That report was followed up by the book Water Security published by Island Press in 2011.

Given this history, it is interesting that on the new website (and on various pages) the WRG describes itself as “neutral.”

The word “neutral” is an odd choice, since it doesn’t say what it is neutral with respect to. And nothing is neutral with respect to everything. It will be interesting to see how this neutrality plays out given the explicit statement that WRG targets a change to the “political economy” of water in the passage lifted from the “about” section below.

“The Water Resources Group (WRG)

The Water Resources Group (WRG) is a neutral platform that provides a partnership to help government water officials and other water sector specialists accelerate reforms that will ensure sustainable water resource management for the long-term development and economic growth of their country. It does so by helping to change the “political economy” for water reform in the country by convening new actors and providing water resource data in ways that are manageable for politicians and business leaders. WRG acts as an independent entity and offers no political, partisan or national nuance to the advice proposed. It works closely with in-country water professionals and engages with its government clients in a rapid, time-bound manner, by invitation only.

WRG’s initial phase had been financed and nurtured during 2008-2011 through an informal collaboration between IFC, World Economic Forum (WEF) and some bilateral aid agencies, private sector companies and other organizations and was hosted at WEF.  WRG works solely at the invitation of governments to undertake its in-country activities. To date WRG has responded to invitations from the Governments of Karnataka (India), Jordan, South Africa and Mexico.  Following the Davos 2011 decision to transition the current WRG program into a scalable operation, IFC and various participants in the WRG have agreed to develop a more formal structure for WRG, to be hosted initially within IFC.  After the period of transfer between WEF and IFC, WRG started its second phase in July 2012.”