Fire and Water: An Examination of the Technologies, Institutions, and Social Issues in Arms Control and Transboundary Water-Resources Agreements

Published: June 20, 2002
Authors: Elizabeth Chalecki, Peter Gleick, Kelli Larson, Arian Pregenzer, Aaron Wolf
Pages: 14

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 in-depth. 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.

Download the report (PDF)