The U.S. faces a myriad of water challenges, many of which are related to climate change; others are the result of inaction over the course of decades to appropriate funding toward infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.  For many communities, this has led to water crises, such as the devastating situation of lead in the pipes in Flint, Michigan. With the bipartisan infrastructure law, $63 billion will be allocated toward the country’s water infrastructure which will address many needs but not all.  Beyond national water concerns, the current administration believes that climate change has potential impacts to national security as well.

At the direction of the President, the Director of National Intelligence released a report (National Intelligence Estimate or NIE) in October 2021 entitled, “Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040,” to assess the risk.  The “Key Takeaway” of the report asserts that climate change will “increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests,” highlighting increased tensions between countries over reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and resources, and increased instability and internal conflict in developing countries less able to navigate climate change.”[1]

At the beginning of June, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the White House Action Plan on Water Security which elevates water security to a foreign policy priority, stating, “Water scarcity is a global problem, and it must be met with a global solution.”  The Action Plan uses the UN definition of water security emphasizing the importance of “sustainable access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services, as well as water to sustain ecosystems and for agriculture, energy, and other economic activities.”[2]

The Action Plan enumerates three pillars:

1.       Work toward universal and equitable access to sustainable, climate-resilient, safe, and affordable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services without increased greenhouse gas emissions.

2.       Promote sustainable management of water resources and associated ecosystems to support economic growth and resilience, mitigate the risk of instability or conflict, and increase cooperation.  Use of the United States’ data collection and technology capabilities will support this pillar’s objective.

3.       Ensure that all actions promote international cooperation and water security.

The plan emphasizes the role of partnerships with scientific and technical agencies and other nongovernmental organizations.  Additionally, it specifies various means of achieving each pillar.  In closing, the report provides a water security overview for six world regions.

Although large-scale wars over water resources have not yet developed, there have been protests and conflicts with casualties that have transpired over shrinking water resources. 


[1] National Intelligence Council. “Climate Change and International Responses Increasing ... -”,

[2] “White House Action Plan on Global Water Security.”,