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Water Scarcity May Cause Global Instability, U.S. Intelligence Agencies Say In Report

U.S. intelligence agencies released a report (.pdf) on Thursday warning that “[d]rought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant global instability and conflict in the coming decades, as developing countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while dealing with the effects of climate change,” the Associated Press reports (Lee, 3/22). “The Intelligence Community Assessment report says the water challenges will increase regional tensions and distract countries from working with the U.S. on important issues,” VOA News writes, noting, “The report’s purpose was to assess the impact of global water issues on U.S. security interests over the next 30 years” (3/22).

The report includes a section on how lack of access to water and sanitation increases disease risk, where the authors write, “Water scarcity — driven in part by poor or inadequate water infrastructure — forces populations to rely on unsafe sources of drinking water, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever.” The report adds, “Furthermore, water diversion projects (e.g., dams, reservoirs, and irrigation systems) cause waters to be stagnant or slow-moving, which creates favorable conditions for increased populations of disease-transmitting vectors such as mosquitoes (e.g., dengue, malaria), flies (e.g., onchocerciasis), snails (e.g., schistosomiasis), or copepods (e.g., Guinea worm)” (2/2).