chair of the affinity group and former AAAS fellow,
who now works for U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, an
Illinois House member.
The “Water Diplomacy” symposium explored
the increasing stresses facing freshwater and
ocean systems. Instrumental to human health,
food, energy, economic stability, national security,
and recreational pleasures, water resources are
increasingly strained by industrialization in emerging economies, poor resource management, and
scarcity driven by climate change, presenters said.
Multiple examples cited during the symposium pointed to common missteps and outlined
remedies. Central Asia’s shrinking Aral Sea, for
instance, was offered as a case study. The world’s
third-largest lake lost three-quarters of its water
volume through outdated water-sharing agreements, competing stakeholder objectives, and a
near absence of local input, said Katherine Himes,
an adjunct professor at Evergreen State College.
Syria’s aggressive groundwater tapping for agricultural projects in 1971
increased after successive droughts and became a contributing factor
to the Syrian uprising in 2011, said Sherri Goodman, a senior fellow at
the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Increasingly, water resources are incorporated into global threat
assessments, noted Goodman. The U.S. intelligence community’s most
recent risk report released on 11 May predicted some regions will see
“heightened tensions over shared water resources” and singled out the
festering dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of
the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile as “likely to intensify” as Ethiopia plans to begin filling the reservoir in 2017.
Of the five areas of highest risk to global economic stability and
security over the next decade, “water crises” topped the list and three
of the other four dangers were closely linked to water, said Goodman,
citing the World Economic Forum’s 2016 assessment. Minimal human
water needs include clean drinking water and water for sanitation,
The U.S.-Canada Boundary Waters Treaty of
1909 was presented as a model of water resource
management. The treaty continues to serve as an
enduring framework designed to avert and resolve
disputes over water quantity, quality, and gover-
nance along the 5525-mile border.
Charles Lawson, the secretary of the U.S.
section of the International Joint Commission,
the governing body that helps local governments
monitor and enforce the treaty’s provisions, said
the agreement has withstood the test of time
because it is simple yet comprehensive.
The treaty requires agreements to be reached by
consensus before any project obstructing or divert-
ing boundary waters can move forward. It sets similar terms for projects
that raise water levels on one side of the border. The treaty bars actions
by either party that would pollute shared water resources, or injure or
damage the health or property on either side of the border. Beyond
the consensus requirement, the International Joint Commission has
defined authorities, requires equal representation of U.S. and Canadian
officials, and mandates that findings be based on science, Lawson said.
The United Nations, aid organizations, nongovernmental groups,
and nations across the world recognize the need for multi-agency
cooperation to craft solutions, several speakers said. Aaron Salzberg,
the U.S. State Department’s special coordinator for water resources,
said the good news is that most countries now view cooperation as
essential. “They know to meet future needs we’re going to need to
work across the sectors, across borders,” he said, “that cooperation
opens up new opportunities for growth and economic development
and reduces collective risks.”
Screeners needed for
Scientists from the U.S.
and abroad who will be in
the Washington, D.C., area
between late August and late
September are needed to
review the scientifc accuracy
of entries in the prestigious
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism
Awards competition. If you
can volunteer, please contact
Nkongho Beteck (nbeteck@
aaas.org) for screening dates
The Water Diplomacy symposium featured water-themed artwork by Courtney Mattison (left) and Alison Sigethy (right).
26 MAY 2017 • VOL 356 ISSUE 6340 815