Table of Contents

Handbook on Water Security

Handbook on Water Security

Edited by Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Anik Bhaduri and Joyeeta Gupta

Water security has received increasing attention in the scientific and policy community in recent years. This Handbook covers the wide range of perspectives required to understand water security as a concept guiding water governance and management at different levels and in different regions. It reflects on past, present and future challenges to water security and strategies on how to overcome them. An invaluable resource for scientific scholars, it will also appeal policymakers and practitioners interested in a deeper understanding of this important concept.

Chapter 1: Water security: a popular but contested concept

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Joyeeta Gupta and Anik Bhaduri

Subjects: environment, environmental management, water, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


The academic and political interest in the concept of water security has increased considerably over the past decade as reflected in numerous publications (Bakker, 2012), research and funding initiatives, and conferences. This growing interest may reflect the explosive rise in concern of scientific and policy communities about the state of freshwater resources and the urgent need for sustainable water and land management in an era of rapid change and persistent water and food challenges including access issues. Economic development, population increase, climate change, and other global to local drivers alter water resource availability and use, resulting in increased risk of extreme low and high flows, variously altered flow regimes, and water demands surpassing renewable supply. These have also affected the ability of water-dependent ecosystems to provide ecosystem services. Satisfying human demands is often achieved in the short term at the expense of the environment (Palmer et al., 2008; Vörösmarty et al., 2010) with harmful implications in the long run for socio-ecological systems as a whole. Many, but not all, water problems can be attributed to governance failures rather than the condition of the resource base itself. Governance failures occur at local through to global level, are manifold and affect both developing and industrialized countries albeit in different ways. They are also affected by drivers that operate simultaneously at multiple levels of governance (Gupta et al., 2013).