The Strategic Dimensions of Water: From National Security to Sustainable Security

Water Security: Principles, Perspectives and Practices

Author/s (editor/s):

Benjamin Zala

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

Find this publication at:

Benjamin Zala, ‘The Strategic Dimensions of Water: From National Security to Sustainable Security’, in Bruce Lankford, Karen Bakker, Mark Zetioun and Declan Conway (eds), Water Security: Principles, Perspectives and Practices, London: Routledge, 2013, pp. 273‒88.

This chapter discusses the enduring preoccupation in policy circles with strategic questions related to water. In particular, the focus here is on the security implications of increased competition over water resources in defence and security analyses, despite the tendency in the academic literature towards an overly sceptical view of the potential for large-scale conflict over water. The chapter discusses the strategic dimensions of water with a focus on the role of population increases and climate change in framing the way water is treated in national security threat assessments, particularly in western countries. It examines the ways in which the academic literature on water security has diverged from the analysis of defence and security policymakers due to issues such as differing approaches to warfare, international institutions, and rationalist approaches to security and cooperation. It is argued that a sustainable security framework approach, rather than a control paradigm approach, provides the most appropriate principles for basing a holistic and long-term policy response to water, conflict, and cooperation in the years to come.

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