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Water security is about managing too much, too little and/or too polluted water. Water security is about the increasing importance of sustainable management of water resources, drinking water and human well-being and protection of life and property from water-related disasters. Water security is about the health of ecosystems and economic development. A groundwork of this broad and multi-faceted concept is presented to facilitate understanding, measuring and improving water security.
|Scale||Examples and considerations|
|Global||Global water security assessment was carried out by Vorosmarty et al. , considering human and biodiversity perspectives: drivers and impacts related to catchment disturbance, pollution, water resource development and biotic factors were quantified at a global scale. Gain et al.  also provided a global assessment using the Global Water Security Index, using indicators based on SDG 6.|
|Usually encompassing all four dimensions from the UN definition , frameworks such as the National Water Security Index  from the Asian Development Bank, the Water Security Scorecard  from the Australian Water Association and others developed by scholars such as Dou et al. , Marttunen et al. , Su et al. , Lautze et al.  look at water security at a national scale. The National Blueprint Framework , although not designed for water security specifically, provides indicators to measure progress on SDG 6.|
|With a focus on water quantity aspects such as availability, utilisation and scarcity resources, frameworks at this scale also bring attention to climate change aspects and governance since watershed or basins do not follow administrative boundaries of cities or states, with concerns over the surface and groundwater quantity and quality at this scale often requiring transboundary cooperation. Works developed by scholars such as Babel et al. , Yin et al. , Xiao et al. , Norman et al. , Jia et al.  provided frameworks for basins of watersheds. Notably, the use of hydrological models is often used, providing valuable predictions.|
|Regional||An intermediate between the city and national context, studies at a regional scale usually follow administrative boundaries of regions or provinces, sometimes comprising several basins and smaller regions. Encompassing not only urban areas but also areas of different land uses, considerations around agricultural activities, ecological and environmental aspects are present. Scholars such as Liu et al. , Li et al. , Zhang et al.  provided regional evaluations.|
|The urban level frameworks tend to incorporate many aspects regarding availability, access and reliability of water services, governance, water hazards, etc. One of the key dimensions of the National Water Security Index by the ADB , notable frameworks such as the City Blueprint Approach (KWR) , Sustainable City Water Index (Arcadis)  and the City Water Resilience Index (ARUP)  are city-specific. As are works from scholars such as Van Ginkel et al. , Jensen et al. , Ghosh et al.  and Romero-Lankao et al. .|
|Community||At this scale, frameworks show concern with management strategies, governance and other social aspects. The Canadian Water Sustainability Index (CWSI)  was developed to assess the well-being of communities with respect to water. The WaterAid  framework highlights the importance of a participatory process involving the community. Authors such as Wutich et al. , Shrestha et al. , Norman et al.  and Dickson et al.  considered communities as the scale to assess water issues.|
|Focus on essential needs (access to water and sanitation) and aspects related to health and hygiene, social and gender inequality, emotional stress and food security are present at this scale. One key dimension of the National Water Security Index by the ADB , and sometimes described in terms of water insecurity, this level has also been assessed by scholars such as Jepson , Hadley and Wutich , Wutich , Brewis et al. , Webb  and Tsai et al. , among others. The HWISE-RCN by Young et al.  is notably investigating experiences, causes and outcomes of water insecurity at the household level.|
Figure 6. Water security dimensions based on the UN definition .
|Dimension||Categories||Indicator / aspects|
|Drinking water and
|Water quantity||Water availability, adequate quantity for basic needs, demand and consumption; diversity of sources; precipitation and water balance; water storage; exploitation of resources; water stress and usage efficiency.|
|Quality||Quality of water for human consumption (meeting standards); aesthetic, perception and quality acceptability; water treatment practices.|
|Access to water services||Access to improved drinking water source; improved sanitation; piped water or water supply connection; accessibility of water points; affordability of services; wastewater collection/sewage connection.|
|Infrastructure reliability||Asset management and maintenance; infrastructure condition/age and capacity; reliability (complaints/blockages/interruptions); service level; service continuity (hours of service); water leakage, non-revenue water.|
|Water/wastewater reuse; energy or nutrient recovery; rainwater harvesting; solid waste/recycling.|
|Hygiene and public health||Water-related diseases; incidence of diarrhoea; adequacy of water for housework and hygiene; other health problems.|
|Wellbeing||Emotional stress, fear, frustration; safety or dispute; deprivation or lost opportunity; recreational opportunities.|
|Ecosystems||Environment||Surface and groundwater water quality; river health; wastewater generated and adequacy of wastewater treatment; biodiversity; environmental flows; environmental protection actions; pollutants discharge (harmful substances, pollution loading); soil erosion; wildfires; vegetation cover and land use.|
|Sustainability||Energy use/efficiency; renewable energy; sustainable natural resources use; sustainable water use; water sensitive urban design.|
and Climate change
|Water-related hazards||Floods (frequency, affected area and population, hazard and vulnerability, protection infrastructure); droughts (frequency/vulnerability/area affected); economic loss; landslides; prevention, preparedness and response; water pollution accidents.|
|Climate change||Climate change response; greenhouse gas emissions; salination and seawater intrusion; temperature.|
|Economic Activities and Development||Economic
|Water for agriculture, manufacturing; commerce, energy production; broad economic development; water-related business opportunities; food production and demand; water footprint; water use/GDP or GDP/water use.|
|Governance||Institutional organization and capacity; accountability and corporate governance; data availability, multi-level and multi-stakeholder participation/engagement; communication and transparency; investment/funding and financial management; legal and regulatory aspects; science, knowledge and innovation; strategic planning; transboundary and international collaboration.|
|Socio-economic aspects||Education and awareness; GDP; income/unemployment rate; informal dwellings; population density; social and cultural aspects; urbanization rate.|
Indicators play an important role in describing the complexity of a system, dissemination of information and translating important aspects of a complex system into an accessible format that can be understood and monitored by different stakeholders. As a useful tool to identify critical problems, they have the potential to guide governments and decision-makers in developing action plans and making informed political interventions to tackle areas that need attention in order to improve water security.
From water security assessment, case studies, experiences, observations, consultations, etc., authors in the literature have gathered a range of experiences allowing identification of solutions, suggestions or interventions that could help improve water security. From these, certain actions with the potential to help achieve water security goals have been identified (see Figure 7). Sharing these actions is as important as measuring and aiming for water security since the only way to achieve goals and improve water security is going from paper to action and implementing measures.
Figure 7. Summary of actions with potential to improve water security.
Through different scales and approaches, the evaluation of water-related concepts, in particular water security, is an important step into achieving the SDGs. Although different definitions and frameworks have been proposed in the last decades, research questions around water security, and how to improve it, are still of great relevance. Like the concept itself, water security challenges are multifaceted and facing them depends not only on research and innovation but also on policies, management strategies and governance.
The development of frameworks and the potential to measure water security allows a wider and clearer vision view of water challenges. Investigating water security provides crucial information on this ever-changing, multi-faceted concept, allowing to produce the best possible information on needs and challenges. This fuels research to develop means to better measure and improve water security.