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IWR Contributes to 8th Ministers’ Forum on Infrastructure Development in the Asia-Pacific Region

Published June 29, 2010
photo of struggling soybean sprouts in near drought conditions
Struggling soybean sprouts in near drought conditions.

ALEXANDRIA, VA – June 29, 2010. IWR Director Bob Pietrowsky and Dr. Jerry Delli Priscoli, Senior Advisor on International Water Resources at IWR, participated on two panels assembled by the Global Water Futures Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on June 17, 2010. The purpose of the event was to explore the security implications of droughts and water scarcity in both the U.S. and abroad. Erik Webb of Sandia National Laboratories served as moderator of the panels, which consisted of a wide range of experts from the U.S. government, private sector, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on both U.S. and international water problems and opportunities. The panel discussions included an analysis of the challenges to achieving sustainable water resources management and recommendations to overcome them.

Bob Pietrowsky presented remarks as part of a panel addressing "Public Policy and Management Strategies." He discussed how institutional issues are paramount in U.S. water management, with the fragmentation of agency responsibilities at the Federal level making it more difficult than it should be to achieve a coordinated approach to drought preparedness, mitigation and response. Pietrowsky said that "advance planning that emphasizes drought preparedness, mitigation and risk management rather than crisis management – which is the cornerstone of the current Federal response to drought – and continuous public awareness is essential – so that we place greater emphasis on preparedness over insurance, insurance over relief, and incentives over regulations."

He acknowledged that "droughts are difficult to manage because they don’t announce themselves as clearly as floods," but noted that significant progress on the vertical and horizontal integration of drought planning took place in the 1990’s with the passage of the National Drought Policy Act of 1998. This act established the National Drought Policy Commission and presented the U.S. with a significant opportunity to establish a non-Federal/Federal partnership – recognizing that drought policy should help mobilize the resources of the Federal government to support but not supplant nor interfere with State, tribal, regional, local and individual efforts to reduce drought impacts.

On the international front, Pietrowsky spoke of the importance of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, the global progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and how water cuts across all of the Millennium Development Goals, including improving health, education, gender equity and environmental sustainability. He also noted the significance of Secretary Clinton’s speech on World Water Day, which elevated the importance of water security within the context of diplomacy, development and defense and positioned water as a "front-burner issue, a high priority in our national and international dialogues."

Jerry Delli Priscoli participated in the Trends and Projections Panel. The panel was asked to address key questions on (1) What are the most critical domestic and international issues or trends we face in achieving sustainable water resources management in the face of normal and drought conditions and (2) What are the most critical public policy changes that could help to resolve these challenges (technological advances; better governance; improved international organization, collaboration, cooperation; political leadership, mobilization of finances)? Other members of the panel represented the Center for Strategic and International Studies, WaterAid America, University of Southern California, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Australian Trade Commission.

The panel discussions were held at CSIS Headquarters in Washington, DC. The event was part of an overarching focus on water that included a companion event on June 16 entitled "Drought, Water Scarcity & International Security in the 21st Century." It featured Congressional speakers and the preview of the documentary film "Running Dry: Beyond the Brink" at the Capitol Visitor Center. "Coping with Drought and Water Scarcity" can be heard in its entirety on the event website (below).

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