Under non-stationarity securitization contributes to uncertainty and Tragedy of the Commons

Michael L. Wine

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

29 Scopus citations


Uncertainty is a defining characteristic of hydrologic investigations, with increasing recognition of parameter, structural, measurement, and prediction uncertainty. Here we suggest that an additional form of uncertainty—(geo)political uncertainty—is locally important, but commonly neglected. We define geopolitical uncertainty in hydrology as indefiniteness of water balance processes, the relative magnitude of hydrologic fluxes, or causality as a consequence of complex international relations amongst riparians of a transboundary basin forced by internal economic, political, and nationalistic drivers (as well as interactions amongst these drivers) under a regime of non-stationary climate. We suggest that such (geo)political uncertainty has developed in the Jordan River basin as a consequence of intentionally ambiguous language in the Israel Jordan Peace Treaty, outstanding discussions regarding water allocations to the Palestinian Authority, and lobbying by the powerful agricultural sector. In the presence of economic motives requiring consumption of water these drivers promote securitization manifested as secrecy regarding water management and consumption by the upstream riparian, which given non-stationary climate opens a void of (geo)political uncertainty in which the relative importance of climate variability and change becomes indeterminate relative to changing water consumption, thereby perhaps allowing the upstream riparian to increase water consumption. The consequence of this (geo)political uncertainty for hydrologic studies is large water balance uncertainty, inability to reproduce water consumption studies due to data secrecy, and disagreement regarding the relative importance of pertinent drivers (i.e., climate versus consumption). Greater acknowledgement and awareness of (geo)political uncertainty's impacts on hydrologic studies is needed, as are concerted efforts to reduce this uncertainty for the benefit of transparent water dialogue among riparians and knowledge-based management of common-pool resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)716-721
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Geopolitics
  • Jordan River
  • Kinneret
  • Transboundary
  • Uncertainty
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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