A Water Strategy For The USA

An essay by Jim Thebaut

Writer, Producer, Director and Executive Producer Jim Thebaut has been involved with socially significant productions and affiliated with HBO, ABC News, CBS, A&E, Lorimar Productions, Carson Productions and more.   

As president of The Chronicles Group, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) public information and education film production company, Thebaut is dedicated to providing visual and educational records for the general viewing public about profound issues facing the 21st century.

Throughout his career, Thebaut has written, produced, and directed an array of prominent socially significant productions accompanied by gripping on-camera interviews for most of his documentary projects.

In this VoiceYourself essay, Thebaut addresses the need for a comprehensive global water policy.  It is a multi-faceted approach to a problem that cannot be solved with a single silver bullet.  So read on, learn more - and don’t leave the tap running.

Today, the World is faced with a serious water crisis.  It’s urgent that a multidimensional strategy be implemented by the United States in order to confront this emergency.  Such a strategy would be important not only from a moral perspective but it would also have significant international security ramifications, and it would enhance the image of the United States throughout the world. 

It’s critical that this country set an example on how to solve the crisis, solutions which will require decisive action both internationally and throughout the United States.

When it comes to water, the planet is in serious trouble.  Currently 1.2 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water and twice that many don’t have access to sanitation.  Every year 1.8 million people die from diseases caused by water pollution and the vast majority of these are children.

Worldwide, a child dies every 15 seconds from diarrhea.  These quiet, preventable deaths hardly receive any attention.  According to United Nations sources by the year 2020, as many as 76 million people could die from polluted water.  These projections indicate that by 2015 nearly half the world’s population, more than 3 billion people, will find it hard, if not impossible to get pure drinking water.

This is an emergency of momentous proportions.  Compounding this reality there are profound international security considerations.  Hunger, disease, poor education and poverty are conditions which produce terrorists.  Consequently, United States foreign policy must devote attention and resources to those dangerous and distressed regions in the world where terrorism breeds. 

This includes Africa, the Middle East, vast portions of Asia and locations within Latin America.  These resources could become part of the recently-passed Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act.

The effort to deliver clean drinking water and sanitation to impoverished environments should be led by the U.S., working with the entire international community.  But such U.S. leadership requires global credibility, particularly in poor, geo-politically tense environments that breed terrorists.  The only way the United States can assume global leadership is to set an example; by solving its own clean drinking water issues.

Because of over-consumption, climate change and significant population growth the United States is now beginning to experience the effects of what will become an extreme water crisis.  Currently, the water crisis is affecting almost every region within the United States and exposing the fact that there are Third World conditions within the United States. 

Our domestic water crisis can be seen most clearly in the American Southwest.  Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are all experiencing significant and intense droughts and water shortages.  At the center of the crisis is the Colorado River. 

Due to climate change, this river is at the lowest level ever recorded.  This important river is the primary water source for the 30 million people who dwell within the American Southwest.  Due to projected population growth and other demands, the Colorado River is going to out-strip the amount of water supply that will be available within the region and this could lead to chaotic conditions in the not-too-distant future.

The community with the greatest vulnerability is that of Native Americans.  On the Hopi and Navajo Reservations there are Third World conditions and concerns that in the very near future water resources will dry up.  In reality, there is no physical infrastructure to get water to many of the dwellings on the reservations. 

Compounding the problem, there are also serious water quality problems and lack of adequate sanitation, causing birth defects and illness among members of the community.

The water crisis in the U.S. will get worse unless the country implements important policies at all levels of government.  The centerpiece would be the creation of a National Water Policy and it must include partnerships and coordination between the Federal Government and cities, states and Native American Nations.  This is essential in order to implement environmentally sensitive reuse programs, as well as national efforts involving conservation and land use planning.

This effort to establish clean drinking water throughout the U.S. will give the country credibility in its international efforts.  It will demonstrate that the U.S. has the moral capacity and fiber to clean up its own backyard.  It will demonstrate U.S. leadership in facing the security consequences of the global water crisis.

When it comes to drinking water, the planet is clearly at a crossroads.  Making sure that everyone has access to clean water is a humanitarian mission, it will assure a safer world and it will avoid an environmental calamity.



The world is much less stable than during the Cold War era. Regions of the world are experiencing destabilizing levels of war, terrorism and crime and the population of the planet is projected to be 9 billion by 2050. Water scarcity, climate change and drought, poverty, disease, loss of agriculture land and food supply could generate nuclear arms proliferation in those regions seeking  to secure a better way of life.  The process of Arms Control negotiations and the new START Treaty needs to be reconstructed, widen and expanded to include all nuclear power states in order to assure an over-all global reduction of nuclear weapons and a strategy and schedule to ultimately eliminate them entirely in order to assure international security.

The primary legacy of the Cold War is the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Cold War military programs produced over sixty thousand nuclear weapons. Efforts since 1991 at serious disarmament and arms control have reduced the danger of total global destruction but the planet is still at risk and the potential for a nuclear exchange or a catastrophic detonation of a single nuclear devise in a major city or an accident still exists. Even as Russia and the U.S. have been decreasing their nuclear arsenal there has been an increase of nuclear weapon states. Both India and Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons and Iran and North Korea have been using Cold War technology to develop their weapons programs. The potential for a tragic event which kills hundred of thousands or millions of people becomes a greater threat everyday. 


The new START Treaty is a relic of the Cold War and there are significant reasons why the ratification process of the Treaty should be slowed down and re-evaluated in order to reflect the reality of today's new dangerous world. Obviously its critical the new treaty must establish a level of equality regarding the reduced number of strategic warheads (including missiles with multiple warheads),  the means of delivery by land based missiles, submarine launched missiles and nuclear capable bombers. In addition, both countries entire systems need to be modernized in order to assure continued safe command and control and there must be a clear understanding in the Treaty for regular verification. 


But also there is an evolving global perspective which needs to be included. The genesis of the nuclear technology was generated by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War and they now have a historical and moral duty to assume responsibility for geopolitical nuclear safety around the world and this accountability should be clearly spelled out in the new START Treaty. Furthermore, the U.S. and Russia needs to include the other nuclear states in the world as participants and signatories in the Treaty in order to establish a comprehensive global safeguard. Those countries should include China, India, Pakistan, Britain, France, and Israel. 


In today's multi-polar nuclear world, the threat of the use of a nuclear weapon is as great as anytime during the Cold War. In today's new world, which includes rogue states, terrorists, climate change  and the humanitarian water crisis it can not be assumed the same degree of reason which occurred during the Cold War will prevail. Consequently, it will require a global effort to offset the threat and this reality needs to be included in the new START Treaty.  


The size of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is a secret and India is building  its arsenal without establishing any limits. In 2008 India was the 10th highest military spender and plans to spend from 50 to 55 billion US dollars on its nuclear program thru 2014. Transcending the tensions that have existed between these nuclear power country's since the establishment of  Pakistan is water. Water disputes instead of  religion and border conflict could trigger a war between India and Pakistan.


Rivers flow between India and Pakistan and competitive upstream down stream issues have evolved over water for irrigation, drinking and energy production in the region and it has generated significant tensions. Furthermore, the tragic flood disaster in Pakistan which has shattered the lives of millions could be a prelude to future calamities. Extreme weather events caused by climate change, which includes more intensive and extended monsoon seasons, melting Himalayan glaciers, droughts, water scarcity and food shortages in conjunction with significant population growth and  poverty will exacerbate the drastic conditions and further threaten international security.

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