The Water Security Paradigm: A New View for Development Planning

The Water Security Paradigm: A New View for Development Planning

In a world where water - for many countries - is becoming a key constraint to political and economic stability, is and water security - the next logical step forward from integrated water resources management?


For developing country planners and decision makers, water will be the key resource and political consideration in the coming 50 years. In many of these nations and regions, how water is managed will make the difference between peace and conflict; poverty and prosperity. 

Taking a ‘water security' perspective on national policy planning brings country decision makers and development partners a new and practical view to guide policies, natural resource agendas, and investment. Bringing in the security aspect stresses the resource's importance at the center of political and economic processes - especially for resource-poor countries and thereafter the agenda could provide decision makers a meaningful reference to capture multi-dimensional aspects in sustainably managing water resources. 

A ‘water security' agenda gives decision makers a hands-on planning tool to develop effective policies, design programs and plan investments that address all societal and socioeconomic aspects of water for sustainable development. These include drinking water; ecosystems; climate change; economic activities; governance; trans-boundary cooperation; political stability and financing.


UNU-INWEH.jpgUNU-INWEH's recent policy synthesis- ‘ With Water-Nothing is Secureencourages all water and development stakeholders to embrace the UN-Water framework on water security as a guide to developing national water-related SDG plans.

The UN-Water Task Force on Water Security’s proposed working definition aligns multi-faceted aspects of water management planning and policy and includes dimensions related to political water security, social water security, and shared water security.

Furthermore, Water Security approach complements the existing Integrated Water Resources Management tools. These conceptual frameworks can be effectively linked to deliver practical and measurable water development initiatives.


Deliberations on Water Security are gaining momentum and frames in the New World Bank report- Sustainable Path to Water Security Urgent Priority for Arab World - that highlights actions required to prevent water scarcity from affecting future growth and instability in the region and strong links between the private sector and government agencies to jointly develop Water Security plans to effectively manage the risk of water stress and scarcity.

Canada is looking into drinking water issues in indigenous communities through a water security lens.

Panama is set to embed water security in national goals on sustainable water management, inspired by the UN-Water Security framework.

Efforts to measure water security are in progress by international organizations and programs using existing indicators such as the Water scarcity index (WSI), World governance index etc. Despite these developments, there is a significant gap in understanding between development actors on what water security is and how it can help countries progress toward the SDG water targets. Water managers and users, national and international policymakers and development partners can tie efforts and untie complexities and effectively implement water-related SDGs.To help close this gap, the UNU-INWEH proposes its expertise and capacity building support to help all partners put water security approaches into action.     


Nidhi Nagabhatla and Michael Devlin

(UNU INWEH Canada)

The policy brief is available for free download at UNU INWEH