Susskind's New Book Details Model for Sharing Water

From the American Southwest to the Middle East, water is a highly contested resource: Many neighboring nations, and several states in the United States, have fought decades-long battles to control water supplies. And that need for water only seems likely to increase. "Out in the world, there's growing demand for fresh water, especially where there is urban development," says Larry Susskind, the Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning. "At the same time, climate change is altering in unexpected ways how much water there is. So you have increasing pressures on water supplies and thus battles over how water will be allocated." Many of these disputes seem extremely difficult to solve. How, for example, can Israel and its neighbors share scarce water supplies? How can there be enough water to supply both populous Southern California and fast-growing Arizona? Such problems are virtually intractable, right? Wrong, according to Susskind. "Water is not most usefully thought of as a scarce resource," Susskind says. "It's a flexible resource. It's not that there's not enough water. It's that we waste it and don't invest in the technologies that would allow us to make more efficient uses of it. If you keep thinking water is a scarce resource, you will be locked into battles you don't need to be locked into." That notion is central to what Susskind calls "a new approach to water management" in a new book on the subject, Water Diplomacy, co-authored with civil engineering professor Shafiqul Islam of Tufts University and published this month by Resources For the Future, in affiliation with Routledge. In the book, Susskind and Islam argue that nations and their leaders need more pragmatic and flexible ways of solving water-supply problems, and offer a new paradigm for approaching these issues, which they call the Water Diplomacy Framework (WDF). Their aim, Susskind asserts, is nothing less than to "completely change the nature of the conversation among people using the same water resources." (Excerpted from MIT News; for more on this story, see; image: Anjarl (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)