We have previously argued that international environmental law does not adequately promote environmental security because it has failed to adopt an ecosystem orientation.
In this paper we suggest that environmental security in the context of freshwater resources can only be achieved through a sophisticated understanding of regime formation
and elaboration, linked with a determined pursuit of ecosystem orientation. Our underlying assumptions are twofold. First, the protection of shared water supplies is a “good” worth promoting, whether for intrinsic or instrumental reasons. Second, whenever a resource is shared, particularly a resource that can easily be exhausted or degraded,disputes between the states involved are inevitable. Perhaps surprisingly, we have suggested that the security dimension of the problem relates not only to the potential for disputes, but also—even primarily—to the first of our underlying assumptions. Thus,scarcities of resources should also cause concern when they threaten to undermine either the way of life of a given human population or internal structures of governance and activity through the fostering of subnational conflict and the significant reduction of options for action. In this sense we agree with Richard Ullman's now-famous attempt to redefine the very concept of security. In his view, and ours, a threat to security includes
[any] action or sequence of events that (1) threatens drastically and over a relatively brief span of time to degrade the quality of life for the inhabitants of a state, or (2) threatens significantly to narrow the policy choices available to the government of a state or to private, nongovernmental entities (persons, groups, corporations)within the state.