Water as a Tool for Resilience in Times of Crisis | Wilson Center
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Water as a Tool for Resilience in Times of Crisis

Webcast available

Event Co-sponsors

U.S. Agency for International Development, Sustainable Water Partnership, Winrock International

Webcast Recap

About 90 percent of USAID’s water priority countries are conflict-affected or fragile. Last year, over 60 million people around the world were affected by more than 280 natural disasters. Effective water resource management is complex in times of peace and prosperity. Effective water resource management in a time of crisis—whether war or disaster—can mean the difference between building resilience or compounding tragedy. Please join the Environmental Change and Security Program, USAID’s Sustainable Water Partnership, and Winrock International for a discussion on where the challenges lie and what practitioners and policymakers can do to bolster effective water management for the world’s most vulnerable communities.   

Selected Quotes

Cynthia Brady

“We’ve begun to understand a lot more about the importance of water-related cooperation and collaboration and how that can actually contribute to peacebuilding, and at the same time, how investments in peacebuilding around natural resources can actually improve our outcomes with respect to water security and water use.”

“An important statistic to bear in mind is that the majority of USAID’s investments for at least the last ten years have gone into fragile and conflict-affected environments and when we drill down in specific sectors, those numbers about investments become really, really stark. With respect to priority countries under the Water for Poor Act, it’s over 90 percent that are fragile or conflict-affected and above 80 percent of our climate-related investments are going into fragile and conflict-affected settings.”

“One, we have to make sure we diagnose the problem correctly because that allows you to find the right solutions, and second is not to assume that something like water scarcity is fundamentally intractable. There are ways to manage the human, sociological and other components of engagement with it that can actually get you on the other side of conflict.” 

David DeArmey

“Building a resilient community through water means that service delivery should be accompanied by thinking about the whole system and not just the end product. Therefore, it is my proposal that strengthening the water sector and creating resiliency in fragile contexts such as the Central African Republic is much more about commitment rather than strictly humanitarian interventions or quick ways to exit.”

“We pay for a service and we find great security in not having to worry about whether or not water will come out of our faucets. In a place like the Central African Republic, the problem is that the systemic development needed in the country is too often met with projects that are funded by emergency narratives – with many consequences. Two of them being as mentioned: quick exit strategies and the inculcation that services are free – two diametrically opposed notions to development and resilience.

“Water can only serve as a tool for resilience when access to it is consistent and that the system for making it consistent is set in place.”

Basil Mahayni

“Water security is defined as the adaptive capacity to safeguard the availability of, access to and safe use of an adequate, reliable and resilient quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and economies.”

“We approach the question of water in this way because we do not see water as a water sector issue per se but rather as a broader socioeconomic, environmental and political concern.”

“I think water really exemplifies the multifaceted nature of these risk factors, in part, because of the relationship between water and productive economies, healthy communities, ecosystem services and general wellbeing and stability; and this is why water can be characterized as a risk multiplier in places that experience political, social, economic or environmental fragility.”

Erika Weinthal

“For those that study conflict, often we look at civilian casualties and we count body counts rather than thinking about what happens when you take out water systems; when you take out health facilities. What does that mean for human security? What does that mean for human wellbeing? And that these effects are very long term and that often more children will die because of a lack of access to basic water than they will in the conflict itself.”

“When women were able to talk about the issues they faced regarding access to water, you were able to both leverage water as a source of building trust and cooperation among communities that had been in conflict but also finding solutions to expanding access to water; and it was largely by having women initiate the conversations.”

For a complete summary, please see our write-up on New Security Beat.


Join the conversation on Twitter by following @NewSecurityBeat using the hashtag #disasterresilience. You can also find related coverage on our blog at NewSecurityBeat.org


Photo Credit: Preparation of clean water delivery by helicopter, January 2005, courtesy of USAID Indonesia.



  • Abigail Jones

    Water & Sanitation Advisor, Water Office, Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment, USAID


  • Cynthia Brady

    Senior Peacebuilding and Conflict Advisor, Center for Resilience, U.S. Agency for International Development
  • David DeArmey

    Director of International Partnerships, Water for Good  
  • Basil Mahayni

    Deputy Director, USAID Sustainable Water Partnership, Tetra Tech
  • Erika Weinthal

    Lee Hill Snowdon Professor of Environmental Policy, Duke University