Across the world, people experience increasing water scarcity. Rapidly growing populations, rising demand, expanding industries and unsustainable land use all contribute to putting water resources under pressure. At the same time, climate change can alter the water cycle so that rainfall becomes more unpredictable, with frequent droughts and floods.
This requires greater focus on water governance, also across national boundaries since more than half the global population lives in transboundary river basins. Others rely on a shared lake or aquifer for their water needs. How these transboundary waters are managed has enormous implications for individuals as well as societies.
When a river system is managed unilaterally, its benefits are reduced. Water tensions harm regional development, reduce resilience to climate change, and raise the risk of geopolitical hostility. In regions with fraught relationships between neighbouring states, water’s increasing unpredictability can spur misinformation and conflicts.
Alternatively, water cooperation can support countries and regions to be more resilient. Meeting the rising challenges to global water security will increasingly demand that policymakers strengthen collaboration across states, sectors, and stakeholders at various levels.
Strengthening water cooperation is crucial to development, security, and peace and will only become more important in the coming years.