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 8: Water sovereignty and security, high politics and hard power: the dangers of borrowing discourses!

Joyeeta Gupta, Joseph W. Dellapenna and Marcel van den Heuvel

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


This chapter argues that water security has many meanings. It addresses the question: will framing water in terms of ‘water security’ be likely to do a disservice to the water governance challenge of the 21st century? Isn’t there a real risk that the term will become hostage to a much more sinister use of ‘water security’ and lead to precisely the opposite effect? It argues that in the context of limited freshwater resources, its link not only to survival (existential aspects) but to economic growth runs the risk that more innocent uses of security at global and local levels play into the hands of the securitization process in which states control how water is divided between actors. Borrowing a discourse which was initially used for primarily existential reasons at state level may thus be risky. So while the use of security aims at enhancing the priority given to a subject by making it a high politics issue, this runs the risk of also encouraging the use of hard power to deal with it.

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