Can Arms Control Tools Reduce Conflicts Over Water?
Arms Control and Water Experts Trade Tips on Creating Better Treaties
Almost every major river in the world is shared by two or more
nations. And conflicts over water, already serious in some places,
will likely grow over the coming years as global warming, pollution,
and population growth take their toll. But the good news is there
are solutions - although they may come from some surprising places.
That was the central message of a recent workshop sponsored by
the Pacific Institute, Oregon State University and Sandia National
Laboratory. Now, a new paper discusses the findings of that workshop
The paper finds that although arms control and natural resource
management are very different fields, techniques from each can
inform the work of the other. "Technologies developed to
control the spread of weapons -- like remote sensing and real-time
monitoring -- can be used to improve agreements over shared natural
resources," said Elizabeth L. Chalecki, a Research Associate
with the Pacific Institute and the paper's lead author. "And,
by improving these agreements, we can reduce the risk of conflict
over critical resources like water."
Remote Sensing Can Benefit Data Collection
Another benefit of using these techniques to monitor environmental
conditions: greatly improved data. "Using remote, real-time
sensors to monitor agreements like water treaties gives researchers
access to a treasure trove of information on environmental conditions,"
continued Ms. Chalecki. "And, when it comes to water, there
is a pressing need for this type of information."
According to the paper, arms controls experts can learn a thing
or two from those who manage natural resources as well. "Natural
decision makers can help those in the security community,"
noted Ms. Chalecki. "Although issues of military secrecy
complicate matters, by increasing public participation in arms
control agreements, there is a better chance that the agreements
will be effective in reducing the spread of weapons and lowering
the risks of conflict."
"Fire & Water: An Examination of the Technologies, Institutions,
and Social Issues in Arms Control and Transboundary Water-Resources
Agreements," written by Elizabeth L. Chalecki, Peter H. Gleick,
Kelli L. Larson, Arian L. Pregenzer, and Aaron T. Wolf, will appear
in Issue #8 of the Environmental Change and Security Project Report,
published by the Woodrow Wilson Center.