Divergent Perspectives on Water Security: Bridging the Policy Debate

Patricia A. Gober, Graham E. Strickert, Douglas A. Clark, Kwok P. Chun, Diana Payton, Kristin Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Environmental policy discussion is replete with references to water security, food security, ecosystem health, community resilience, sustainable development, and sustainable urbanism. These terms are, by their very nature, ambiguous and difficult to define; they allow room, however, for a variety of actors to conceptualize water, food, ecological, economic, and urban problems in ways that allow them to move forward on contentious issues. This article focuses on the idea of water security and asks how it is conceptualized and used for regional policy debate in western Canada. We asked fifty-eight water stakeholders from the Saskatchewan River Basin to define water security, identify major barriers to security, and prioritize water problems. Responses showed there are myriad ways to think about water security, ranging from narrow conceptualizations, such as reliability, quality, and quantity, to broader sustainability perspectives about the nature of resource development and its social and economic consequences. The human dimensions of water security (governance, land use, and competing demands) were assigned higher priority than its biophysical aspects (flooding, droughts, and climate change). Framing water security to emphasize the human capacity to manage uncertain and rapid biophysical and societal change offers the opportunity to unite actors who otherwise would be separated by core environmental values, definitions of water security, provincial context (Alberta vs. Saskatchewan), and occupation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-71
Number of pages10
JournalProfessional Geographer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015


  • New Ecological Paradigm
  • decision context
  • sustainable development
  • water security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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