As the money tree of the world wilts, thirsty from neglect, people around the globe desperately sound the alarm. The most recent iteration of this message comes from the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) — the respected bi-partisan strategy and public policy think tank in Washington D.C.
As part of the CSIS Global Water Futures Project, the organization’s Declaration on U.S. Policy and the Global Challenge to Water says water is absolutely crucial to national and international security — both economic and humanitarian. Indeed, the water crisis has transcended research circles. According to newspapers like the U.K.’s Independent, the resource now poses a “bigger threat than the financial crisis.”
Agriculture and energy issues cannot be solved without addressing water needs, the CSIS report finds. Likewise, rampant disease outbreaks and high mortality rates link directly to poor access sanitation and hygiene and the absence of clean water systems. And, because water basins abide by no national boundaries, the resource must also be considered a foreign policy problem.
Few resources prove so vital to human survival. Water, therefore, requires a cooperative and integrated approach, CSIS concludes. Authored and endorsed by leaders from Congress to Coca Cola, the report delineates seven concrete steps the Obama administration should take to ensure that the U.S. plays a leading role in the much needed multi-lateral effort to alter the world’s water-related attitudes and actions.
- Initiate a campaign that exceeds the UN Millennium Development Goals for safe drinking water and sanitation.
- Develop a holistic strategy to reassess the government’s national role in global water challenges.
- Delegate a high-level representative to implement U.S. global water campaign.
- Appoint a core team to support the water representative, coordinating a unified effort across the U.S. government.
- Commit enough resources – both manpower and money – to support the challenge.
- Encourage a “robust collaboration with the international community” and promote a multi-lateral approach.
- Strengthen already existing private/public partnerships; encourage cooperation across sectors.
While water threads together a multitude of concerns from communities to conference tables, the U.S. government has yet to take tangible steps to address this pervasive crisis. In 2008, Congress allocated $300 million toward the Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.
Yet the government still lacks the bureaucratic support and organization to effectively implement such legislation. According to CSIS, “the reality is that too few persons with too little direct authority are tasked with trying to do too much.”
A plan for water that integrates “traditional geopolitical interests and broader humanitarian interests” is worth the world’s while — not only for the common good, CSIS remarks, but also for the common pocketbook. The World Health Organization indicates that for every dollar invested in drinking water and sanitation, $4 and $9 return respectively.
In an age of restructured intelligence and economic turmoil, why should the U.S. begin now paying attention to water strategies? Simply because, CSIS reports, it’s an undeniably smart investment.
Read full declaration here.