Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Dr. Erika Simpson


Water wars are coming! Water is the defining security threat of the 21st century! The future belongs to the water-rich! These types of warnings are frequently proclaimed, urging attention to looming water conflict, which will occur as stores of freshwater diminish in both quality and quantity. Yet the issue of water security is far more complex than as an inevitable source of future violent conflict. Water is a central component to all aspects of life and planetary health and thus it contains within it a multiplicity of social and political meanings, pivotal to our understandings of security. This dissertation begins with an acknowledgment that conceptions of security are conditioned by larger understandings of being and reality, and that water security in particular is emblematic of traditional allegiances within the subject of international relations that are resistant to change. At its core, it is designed to answer the question: What are the relationships between water and security? It adopts a critical security approach to excavate traditional security narratives and then construct and identify emancipatory visions immanent within relationships over water. It argues that an emancipatory vision of water security that is inclusive, communicative, and cosmopolitan is desirable and possible in human water relations. It concludes by identifying various contemporary water relationships that offer potential emancipatory appellations of water security.