On Thursday I attended the high-level panel on “feeding the billions“. Based on comments by the panelists that were hinting at the importance of “valuing water”, I wanted to get an unequivocal answer to whether or not water pricing was a good approach to manage water scarcity.
2012 Stockholm Water Prize Laureates Seminar. Copyright Patrick Keys, All Rights Reserved.
So, rather than clumsily ramble through a question, I wrote the question out in specific words to try and avoid any weaseling in the responses that I received. It’s not often you have such a high-powered captive audience, and I wanted to make the most of it!
Professor Emeritus Tony Allan, Kings College London
Professor Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Dr. Colin Chartres, Director General, International Water Management Institute
Professor Emerita Rita Colwell, University of Maryland
Rationing vs. Pricing
A signal of scarcity is needed
After a day of meetings, Opening Plenary events, High Level panels, strategic framework launches, and a City Hall reception – I’m back home and writing a blog entry. To entice you to keep reading, I’ve included pictures 🙂
Summary for Policymakers
In the spirit of high level frameworks and so on, here are some of my reflections from the day:
1. Choosing to trust – At the opening plenary session this morning, one of the speakers was from PepsiCo. The gentlemen was speaking about his and PepsiCo’s enthusiasm for integrating water stewardship into their food production supply chain, particularly where it concerns communities that are around their production facilities. My knee jerk reaction in these situations is to be skeptical about the honesty of these statements, but today I decided to choose to trust their statements. As stated by honored speakers today (including Swedish Enviroment Minister Gunilla Carlsson and many others), engaging the private sector is critical to long-term sustainability; I agree with this in general, and I think in practice, people interested in advancing the responsible and just allocation of water among all users should open their minds to unconventional partners.
Opening Plenary speech by PepsiCo representative, Copyright Patrick Keys 2012, All Rights Reserved.
2. Leave the pre-conceived notions at the door – During a session launching the framework for Water Security and Climate Resilient Development, sponsored by AMCOW (African Ministers Conference on Water) and GWP (Global Water Partnership) and others (CDKN, ADA, etc.), I asked a question about how/why Egypt and Ethiopia were not a part of the program, and whether their conflict may spell a problem for regional cooperation and resilience. I was informed, in somewhat direct terms, by Bai-Mass Taal of AMCOW that ever since January 25th 2011, the whole perception of regional water conflict needs to change. Three key points illustrate this shift: 1. Sudan is engaging Egypt to grow rice in its lands; 2. the Egyptian water minister has made at least two trips to Ethiopia in the last month; and, 3. Egypt has declared that the Nile must be used equitably for development by all riparian states. This is a major shift in policy, and is reflective of a new, hopefully more fully engaged, policy. Lesson learned.
Framework for Water Security and Climate Resilient Development, Copyright Patrick Keys 2012, All Rights Reserved.
3. Disconcerting lack of foresight – During the high level panel on the global rush for land and water today, the Deputy Minister for Food Security (far left below, not pictured on the projector) from Sierra Leone had apparently not thought of including clauses for compulsory land rehabilitation and stewardship for companies to whom his country has signed leases. Though a convincing case was made for the at least somewhat thoughtful leasing process in Sierra Leone, if this Deputy Minister has indeed not heard of this concept of compulsory rehabilitation, then I am shocked. This is resource extraction contracts 101. I’m not comfortable saying that they are learning as they go, since this is their job to know. I hope that this glaring gap in contract creation is an anomaly, rather than the norm.
High level panel on water and land grabs, Copyright Patrick Keys 2012, All Rights Reserved.
If you’ve made it this far, then here are a few more pictures that characterize the day’s events…
My Junior Rapporteur group, “Good Governance for Water and Food” met at 9am this morning. Tomorrow its 8:30. Ouch…
At the opening plenary, I thought the stage looked pretty swanky…
…only then did the Swedish circus performers come out. Surprising? Yes. A little odd? Yes. Really cool? Absolutely.
Also, after the full day’s activities, there was a great reception at Stockholm City Hall. Here is a picture of the “Golden Room” with the “Queen of Lake Malaren” depicted.
I hope to keep this up tomorrow, with lots more information about the general information I’m learning and more pictures of the fun stuff. Till then!
By Patrick Keys
Nile Day 2012
From Google Earth, 2012
An important characteristic of Nile Day celebration was that the three ‘big fish’ in the basin were in attendance (Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt). The participation of Egyptian water minister, Mr Hisham Qandil was particularly striking given Egypt’s previous opposition to the Nile Basin Initiative and its output, the Comprehensive Framework Agreement. For full coverage, check out the following articles:
- New Business Ethiopia – Riparian Countries’ Water Ministers Celebrate ‘Nile Day’ in Uganda
- Sudan Tribune – Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia to meet for talks over Blue Nile dam
- All Africa – Egypt: Minister Stresses Importance of Nile Basin Inter-Trade
Cooperation, via the joint technical committee
It appears that reality is mirroring the third scenario most closely, with the recent tripartite joint technical committee, under which Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan coordinate an investigation of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam. The simple fact that this technical committee is comprised of representatives from all three of the users that would be directly impacted by the Grand Renaissance Dam, suggests that the recommendations and results are more likely to be used than if they were produced by a single state.
The 1959 Treaty is dead, and Egypt should take notice
Although there are water lawyers out there that could certainly argue with me as to whether the 1959 treaty is a useful international law, I find it hard to believe that any court or government outside of Egypt or Sudan would publicly recognize this treaty as legitimate, simply because the other riparians were not party to the treaty.
Do you disagree? Great! Explain to me (politely, please), how it is possible that Ethiopia and the other riparians could realistically fit into an amended 1959 agreement? If there is no realistic (and equitable) way to do this, then the 1959 agreement must be tossed out, in favor of something that integrates the modern Nile Basin riparians.
“2012 Treaty on the Equitable Allocation of Nile River waters”
The joint technical committee has the potential to lay the groundwork for an evidence-based technical agreement that satisfies the three big fish in the Nile Basin – Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. I should be clear that I think there are enormous benefits for creating stronger regional ties between these three nations. Economic integration is one path that could lead out of a strong technical treaty.
Adapted from CIA
Ethiopia provides between 70 and 80% of the total flow of the Nile and has vast hydroelectric potential, Sudan has very large oil resources, and Egypt has well-established (though volatile) institutions. Using equitable water allocations as a backdoor for broader integration among these three countries, it is possible that a more stable economically integrated Nile region could emerge.
Wait and see
Above all, the official uptake of the results of the tripartite technical committee will signal how the region plans to proceed; whether they aim for technical cooperation, increased regional trade, and potentially greater stability (through economic integration), or whether they close themselves off, limit dialogue and create upstream blocs (Ethiopia plus White Nile riparians) and the downstream “1959 bloc” (Sudan and Egypt).
In the last several years it has become common to talk about “water security”, “food security” or the “security” of nearly any other resource. This has been an excellent development, because it has elevated discussion of these critical topics to the forefront of mainstream consciousness.
However, what do we mean when we discuss “water security”? Does it mean reliable access to water supplies? Perhaps reliable provision of water? Perhaps sustainable use? Something else?
Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Valley, Israel (background) can satisfy its water needs, but does so by pumping groundwater from a fossil aquifer. Is Ketura water secure? [Photo credit Pat Keys, All Rights Reserved]
Wikipedia defines water security as
“the capacity of a population to ensure that they continue to have access to potable water.”
I think that this definition is too narrow, particularly because it doesn’t include many of the other uses of water that human societies depend on, such as food production and sanitation.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines water security as such:
“…water security represents a unifying element supplying humanity with drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, food and ﬁsh, industrial resources, energy, transportation and natural amenities, all dependent upon maintaining ecosystem health and productivity.”
This definition provides a much more inclusive definition, but that creates much more complexity in determining whether water security has been achieved. (The above definition was from p. 47, “Water Security and Ecosystem Services: The Critical Connection”)
Also, if you’re active in the water world, especially online, then you’ve undoubtedly come across Dr. Michael Campana, (among his titles: Professor at OSU, 2011 President of AWRA, etc). In a recent interview he described water security as follows:
“Water security is the capacity of a population to access sufficient water to meet all its needs and to limit the destructive aspects of water. It involves both the productivity and destructivity of water.”
(from “Water Q & A” with Daniel Gilbert of IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Science, and Policy, July 4, 2011)… for more by Professor Campana, check out his blog WaterWired.
These Bedouin are watering a tree along the road, using water from a tanker truck. Is this use of water a need or a want? Are cultural needs equivalent to basic needs? [Photo credit Pat Keys, All Rights Reserved]
There are many other definitions out there, but I think some combination of UNEP’s and Professor Campana’s is on the right track. The common thread between the two is the suggestion that water security means sufficient access to meet humanity’s water needs while limiting negative consequences of this water withdrawal.
A few questions:
1. What constitutes a use of water that satisfies a need versus a want? Are grains needed while meat is a luxury? Where is the line drawn between meeting needs and wants?
2. What happens when we cross a threshold where even basic water needs (let alone wants) cannot be met without negatively impacting either other people or other ecosystems?
3. Have we already crossed this threshold?
“Reframing the Water Security Dialogue” by Dan Tarlock and Patricia Wouters* provides some in-depth discussion about the emergence of a
“…perfect storm of food, water and energy shortages – caused by a combination of population growth, triggering new rural and urban demands, and global climate change…”
Although this article is from the perspective of International Law, its relevance is beyond the scope of law only. The concept of a ‘perfect storm’ suggests that the threshold I mentioned above may be nearing.
Moving forward with this blog, I will be engaging the topic of water security from its multiple perspectives and dimensions as identified above. Furthermore, I will explore water security from the perspective of satisfying basic needs, and when it has moved beyond basic needs (e.g. swimming pools), we’re not talking about water security anymore, we’re talking about lifestyle security. I think this difference needs to be clarified since individuals, communities, states, and nations confuse the concepts of satisfying needs and wants. In a world that is experiencing a ‘perfect storm’, the difference between need and want matters tremendously.
The working definition that this blog will adopt is that used by UNEP, repeated here:
“…water security represents a unifying element supplying humanity with drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, food and ﬁsh, industrial resources, energy, transportation and natural amenities, all dependent upon maintaining ecosystem health and productivity.”
This is challenging because the definition is inclusive of many topics, and therefore extensive in its implications. However, I think that limiting the discussion to potable water only is far too narrow, and to properly understand water security the interlinkages between food, energy, and other needs must be integrated with potable needs.
The Jordan River is heavily polluted in its lower reaches, pictured above. However, the pollution comes from activities that are satisfying basic needs. How are trade-offs between needs of humans and ecosystems balanced? [Photo credit Pat Keys, All Rights Reserved]
The next post will examine the means by which we can ask “is [X] water secure?” [X] can be a community, nation, or individual. Particularly, the question will be explored from the perspective of a specific location’s water resources, and how to define where and how water reaches that location.
Thank you for reading and expect regular updates of this blog to commence from this point onwards!
* Tarlock, D. and Wouters, P. (2009). Reframing the water security dialogue. J. Water Law. 20 (2-3), 53-60
By Patrick Keys
(This is Part V, of Water Security Blog’s series on post-Mubarak Water Security, the previous posts are: 1. Mubarak’s Fall and the Future of the Nile Basin; 2. Egyptian Water Security vs. Ethiopian Development; 3. Egypt’s Jonglei Canal Gambit; and, 4. Egyptian Saber-rattling and a White Nile Coalition)
This series on Egyptian water security has explored the hydrology, diplomatic relations with upstream riparians, and potential infrastructure changes to White Nile and Blue Nile streamflow. The emphasis has been on the relationship between Egypt and Ethiopia, because as evidenced in the second post in the series, Egypt receives the majority of its Nile streamflow from the Blue Nile. This final post seeks to summarize the series and briefly explore a few potential scenarios for what the future may hold.
What have we learned?
As the upstream riparians of the Nile River are finally planning to use their water, specifically Ethiopia, Egypt’s water security is uncertain. However, as the details of the Millennium Dam are becoming evident, Egypt and Ethiopia have exchanged strong words; but so far, only words. It seems unlikely to me that the nations in the Nile would resort to violence, simply because it would (a) inflame existing instability, and (b) the international repercussions would likely be swift. Furthermore, recent news indicates that Egypt is more willing to cooperate than previously thought.
What is most likely is the continued development of Ethiopian water resources. If this is so, we can expect to see Egypt continuing to pursue alternative/ back-up strategies to ensure that it receives the flow it needs for agriculture, municipal, and industrial purposes.
The perspective of this series has been that of “what are the impacts of X on Egypt’s water security” and relatively scant attention has been paid to “whether or not X is appropriate.” The development of Ethiopian water resources, both for hydropower and agriculture, is to be considered an important step forward towards modernization. Given the ambition and the potential of Ethiopian water resources, important strides could be made towards providing food, energy, and jobs to the current residents of Ethiopia, many of who live in poverty.
These are speculative scenarios for how Egypt’s water security may proceed, focusing on Egypt’s relationship with Ethiopia.
Scenario 1: War on the Nile
Let it be known that this is considered very unlikely. If armed conflict was to emerge, it would likely begin with Egypt striking first, and would cost Egypt resources as well as potentially contribute to additional instability. Furthermore, if Egypt were to attack, it loses the moral high-ground that it is trying hard to cultivate with the international community, as it has tried to cast itself as somewhat of a victim.
However, instability can often lead to the emergence of nationalist sentiments, and the seeking for a rallying cause. This fall, assuming democratic elections take place, it is possible that one ore more candidates may try and take advantage of this cause. Mohamed Elbaradei, a strong contender for the Egyptian Presidency, has already indicated he can use strong language towards Israel, so it should be considered a possibility that he can direct that rhetoric towards other nations which threaten Egyptian interests.
Though I do not think this is likely, this scenario is potentially catastrophic and warrants consideration, if for no other reason, to illustrate what should not be allowed to happen.
Scenario 2: White Nile Coalition
This was described in the previous post , regarding a potential collaboration among the White Nile Riparians. This was evidenced by Egyptian officials visiting White Nile nations (Uganda, South Sudan, and Sudan), and the promises made (e.g. South Sudanese development funds) and partnerships forged (e.g. Ugandan “tabling” of ratification of the Entebbe Agreement).
If Egypt successfully forms this White Nile Coalition, as a counter to Ethiopian control of the Blue Nile, then it is likely that the chief impacts would be in the form of non-violent hostility, such as trade tariffs, trade embargoes, or marginalization in the international community.
Scenario 3: Egyptian & Ethiopian Cooperation
This is rarely suggested in either News reports or more thorough analyses; however, I think there is a strong case to be made for cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia. Egypt is much richer than Ethiopia, with a more diversified economy. Ethiopia has the potential to store a great deal more water in the Blue Nile, which could have further benefits to downstream nations in terms of preparing for and adapting to changes in streamflow.
Cooperation would also provide an opportunity for Egypt to monitor construction of new dams along the Blue Nile, and play a role in the negotiations of when and how these dams are filled. Hostility would not be likely to produce the same willingness to share this type of information.
Recent news indicates that it is looking increasingly likely that Egypt will pursue a strategy of cooperation. Egyptian Ambassdor to Ethiopia, Tarik Ghoneim, said Thursday: “Everything is on the table.” He says Egypt’s new government wants to start discussions with all nine Nile countries about using waters in the best interest of all.
The long-term impact of this “willingness to negotiate” will be measured by Egypt’s willingness to participate in international treaties, specifically the Entebbe Agreement/Comprehensive Framework Agreement. I predict that Egypt will seek only bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia, and avoid larger agreements because there is more sacrifice associated with a broader agreement.
The final message of this series, though not apparent at first, appears to be a positive one of cooperation. Though the news mentioned above is less than a day old, it suggests that Egypt is seeking a balanced and regionally productive approach to managing transboundary issues. Rest assured, however, that updates to Egyptian Nile relations will be explored as they arise, here on this blog.
In exploring the relationship between Egypt and its dependence on the Nile River, interesting questions have arisen. Among these, what has been interesting to me is the foreign acquisition of land resources for the purposes of food security (or biofuels security). This land acquisition, also known as “land-grabs”, is taking place quickly, in a less-than-transparent manner, and is concentrated in Africa. Given that large-scale appropriation of water for irrigation can be disastrous for downstream users (see inflows of the Colorado river to Mexico) it is worth exploring the potential impacts of irrigating these land acquisitions relative to changes in streamflow.
This will be the topic of the next series. “Global Land-grabs and Irrigation.” Gathering the necessary information for this will take a bit of time, so please be patient!
By Patrick Keys
(This is Part IV of Water Security Blog’s series on post-Mubarak Water Security, the previous posts are: 1. Mubarak’s Fall and the Future of the Nile Basin; 2. Egyptian Water Security vs. Ethiopian Development; and 3. Egypt’s Jonglei Canal Gambit.)
Over the last few weeks, the Egyptian leadership has moved further and further away from Mubarak style diplomacy, towards a more active and “in-your-face” style diplomacy. In the first post we asked what the post-Mubarak regime would look like, and whether they would be more amenable to upstream riparians and the Entebbe Agreement, or whether they would take a more hawkish stance. The verdict is in, and they are not only more hawkish in speech, but appear to be more hawkish in behavior.
As of this morning (April 8, 2011) Egypt looks to be cementing relationships along the White Nile to act as a buffer to unilateral Ethiopian development along the Blue Nile. This is both strategic and necessary on Egypt’s part to ensure that when the “Great Millennium Dam” is constructed, and filling, that Egypt continues to have an adequate flow in the Nile. Furthermore, by cementing relationships with upstream riparians, this blog is arguing that Egypt may be in the process of forming a “White Nile Coalition” that can act as a nested interest group within the larger Nile basin.
Outside of Nile Basin policy, Egypt is taking a hardline stance against Israeli activity (by making overt threats related to Gaza), and reversing the more-or-less frozen ties with Iran. The implications of these developments on Nile Basin water security are limited, save for the importance of acquiring regional allies, that are of strategic geopolitical importance.
This post seeks to summarize the current flurry of News reports, unpack some of these issues, and provide some analysis on where things are headed.
Egypt strengthening ties with White Nile Riparians
All signs suggest that Egypt is not resting while the Entebbe Agreement (a.k.a. the Comprehensive Framework Agreement) inches closer to becoming a fully fledged International Treaty. A recent Newsvision article seems to suggest that Uganda may hold-off on ratifying the Entebbe Agreement until Egypt undergoes its post-Mubarak transition. The article is quoted below:
“Museveni said Uganda was willing to wait for Egypt to reorganise herself before she could ratify.”
If this is true, then Uganda may be much closer to Egypt than earlier assumed. Also, it begs the question: What did Egypt offer in exchange for this delay? It would be foolish to think that Uganda is doing this out of generosity, and thus the details for this agreement between the two nations are important.
This comes closely on the heels of another high level visit by interim Egyptian leadership to the new country of South Sudan, as discussed in the previous post here. In short, Egypt’s stated interests were to help South Sudan develop economically, including restarting the Jonglei Canal project to drain the Sudd wetlands (depicted above).
All of this points to a concerted effort on the part of Egypt to cement relations along the White Nile, likely towards the goal of forming either a formal or informal coalition. Though its unlikely that the purpose of this coalition would be for military purposes, it is not unreasonable to think that this group could serve exclusionary purposes, including favorable trade agreements or development assistance among coalition nations.
Current Egyptian regime more volatile than predecessor
The hawkish activity within the Nile basin is mirrored by hawkish activity outside the basin. A trademark of the Mubarak regime was regional stability, both in the regime’s maintenance of diplomatic ties with Israel and with the broader Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. In general, there was very little saber-rattling.
Not so anymore. Recent news reports suggest that on various fronts, Egypt may be ramping up its military rhetoric as well as strengthening ties with regional nations that have a track record of anti-Israel rhetoric- specifically Iran. In February, for the first time sinze 1979, Egypt allowed to Iranian boats through the Suez Canal, including the Iranian warship Alvand. Though this does not mean Egypt wants a war, it is apparently comfortable with Iranian boats floating right next to Israel (a country that Iran has in the past threatened directly).
Several days ago, Mohammed Elbaradei – a former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector (IAEA), Professor, and Nobel laureate – met with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, President of Iran. This wouldn’t be terrible on its own, however a recent soundbite from Elbaradei is reason for pause. Elbaradei is quoted as saying: “In case of any future Israeli attack on Gaza – as the next president of Egypt – I will open the Rafah border crossing and will consider different ways to implement the joint Arab defense agreement.”
So, what constitutes an attack? What does “implement the joint Arab defense agreement” actually mean? Boots on the ground? Since the Muslim Brotherhood does not have the power that many news outlets suggest (for more on that read this), Elbaradei is a very realistic candidate for future president. Now, it could be that he is bulking up his “tough-talk” street-cred to cozy up to the current interim Egyptian military leaders, or, he could actually be quite hawkish. Time will tell.
This increase in aggressive rhetoric could be interpreted as a bad omen. Many in the MENA region and beyond are frightened that these words are drum-beats for a war march. However, I think there is a great deal of room for optimism, primarily because the question of an actual war between Arab nations and Israel would draw in other allies that have enormous stake in the stability of the region, specifically the US and China. Why? Oil (obviously).
Actions speak louder though, and actions by these global powers are being taken. This is evidenced by China sending its special envoy for Middle East affairs, Wu Sike, to Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Qatar, in an effort to encourage the Peace Process. China has no desire for Middle Eastern tensions to actually erupt into violence, because it would threaten the pace of their development – which isn’t an option for the Communist regime. Rising fuel prices in China would foment existing discontent and could lead to unrest similar to what we have seen in many Arab nations. China will do everything it can to avoid this.
It is also worth noting that China is beginning to act like a global power, perhaps even inadvertently preparing to wear the mantle of the (emerging global superpower. That, however, is fodder for another post…
What does it mean for Water Security in the region?
This blog is about water security, not international security in general, so what does this mean for the Nile Basin? In general, this increased hawkishness by Egypt means that the ratification of the Entebbe Agreement will likely move more slowly, especially as this White Nile Coalition takes shape.
For Ethiopian development, particularly for the Great Millennium Dam, it means that a more unified White Nile could make trade and other international activity more difficult. Since the Great Millennium Dam costs 4.8 billion USD, equal to 95% of the Ethiopian governments fiscal year 2011 budget, Ethiopian is very nearly going “all-in.”
I predict that China will step up its efforts to mediate relations in the basin for the simple reason that it has made a significant investment in the hydrological future of Ethiopia, specifically in its hydropower (dam) infrastructure. These investments are likely not a generous act on behalf of the Chinese, but almost certainly related to the fact that China’s food security will require massive imports of cereals and other crops in the coming decades, and Ethiopia’s abundant water resources make it a viable candidate for this necessary agricultural expansion.
That prediction should of course be taken with a grain of salt, given how quickly things on the ground change.
Also, I’ve been trying to tell you what to expect from “upcoming posts”, but seeing as how Current Events have called me to the other topics, I’ll just say that expect more on this topic soon.
If you have comments, thoughts, or reactions, please feel free to share them, and please keep them in the spirit of furthering the discussion, because I will reject comments that are outwardly hostile, especially if they are hostile to specific nations or peoples.