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White House plan to tackle water scarcity as national security priority is unveiled

  • White House plan to tackle water scarcity as national security priority is unveiled

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Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday announced the launch of the first-of-its-kind White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, an innovative approach to advancing water security at home and abroad.

According to a statement released by the White House, the plan identifies the direct links between water and U.S. national security.

"It will harness the resources of the U.S. Government—from leveraging science and technology to informing our diplomacy, defense, and development efforts—to advance global water security and foreign policy goals."

The statement added that the announcement “builds on the Biden-Harris Lead Pipe Action Plan and other historic steps, including investments through the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that includes $63 billion to increase drought resilience, replace lead pipes, and invest in water infrastructure to deliver safe drinking water to families and children.”

Climate change is leading to extreme weather events, including prolonged droughts and flooding, exacerbating water scarcity and contaminating water supplies.

According to the United Nations, more than two billion people today lack access to safely managed drinking water, and nearly half the world’s population do not have access to safely managed sanitation services.

Harris highlighted that “water insecurity makes our world less stable,” and noted that water scarcity makes it harder for communities to produce food, protect public health and drive economic growth. “Many of our most fundamental national security interests depend on water security.”

The plan unveiled on Wednesday will elevate water security as an essential element of the United States’ international efforts to achieve national security objectives that include increasing equity and economic growth; decreasing the risk of vulnerability to shocks, conflict and instability; building inclusive and resilient societies; bolstering health and food security; advancing gender equity and equality; and tackling climate change.

Harris added that the plan will be operationalized through Federal departments’ and agencies’ contributions to the U.S. Global Water Strategy.

The plan is organized around three pillars:

  1. Advancing U.S. leadership in the global effort to achieve universal and equitable access to sustainable, climate-resilient, safe, and effectively managed WASH services without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Recognizing the immense progress needed to achieve global WASH goals, the plan emphasizes the importance of affordable and sustainable WASH services, locally led solutions, and addressing the inequity that results from water insecurity—particularly for women and girls.
  1. Promoting sustainable management and protection of water resources and associated ecosystems to support economic growth, build resilience, mitigate the risk of instability or conflict, and increase cooperation. The United States’ world-leading scientific and technical expertise will support efforts to use water resources efficiently and effectively to support agriculture and food security needs, health systems strengthening, and conflict prevention efforts. At the same time, this approach recognizes the importance of nature-based solutions, including drawing on Indigenous and local knowledge.
  1. Ensuring that multilateral action mobilizes cooperation and promotes water security. Efforts to promote water cooperation through regional and multilateral fora are essential to facilitating greater collaboration among countries that share water resources. Elevating water security across U.S. diplomatic efforts will mean integrating water into our development programming and infrastructure initiatives, including those the United States undertakes with international partners. We will identify opportunities where engagement around the management of water resources at all levels, from high-level to technical, can lead to stronger regional ties.

Vice President Kamala Harris also said that around 90 million Americans are living under drought conditions and that by 2030, almost half the world’s population will struggle to meet their water needs.

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