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CHDS Grad Dives into Water Security

Water may not be the first issue to come to people’s minds when discussing homeland security. But James Tindall’s mind works a little different than most people’s.

"I don’t separate things into categories," Tindall said. "I’ve found that if you do that, you miss the picture. To me, there is no difference between water security, homeland security or domestic security. I want to see how they all relate."

The 2006 graduate of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security has just co-authored a soon-to-be released book titled "Water Security: Threats, Conflicts, Policies." The book, slated for an October release, was co-written with Dr. Andrew Campbell, a former Australian intelligence analyst specializing in Jihadist and terrorist deception techniques.

While the title may at first glance conjure images of an environmental slow-growth movement tome, it is in fact an analysis of how water supply and sustainability affects our health, economy and the implications for homeland security. The book identifies conflicts and threats to water security, and goes on to recommend policies.

History is filled with conflicts over water, Tindall said. And, as the world’s population booms and economies seek to expand, the competition for water could spark quarrels in coming years that impact homeland security. "One of the biggest conflicts we may have is in water supply and sustainability," Tindall said by phone from Denver, where he works for the U.S. Geological Survey. "Water is an issue that is going to become more important over the next five to 10 years."

As Tindall points out, water touches the economy as it is used to produce energy, food and products; it’s needed for emergency response for forest fires; and most basically, it is a requirement for life on earth.

"It is a critical national and international resource. It really drives the economy of every developed and developing country," Tindall said.

Water supply is also a resource primed for stirring discord - whether it be California and Colorado debating dibs on the Colorado River, Israel and its Middle East neighbors at odds over each side’s water allotment, or nuclear-armed foes India and Pakistan facing off over disputed supplies of water in Kashmir.

The book includes policy recommendations on potential solutions to supply and threats, both natural and manmade. The important thing is, Tindall said, that awareness of the issues gets raised.

"Whether you agree with our position or not, it will at least make you think about it," he said. "The idea is to make one think about taking a position on such a critical issue."

Tindall said his water work has linked him with former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, with whom he is working on water security and trans-boundary issues in China. As the roaring Chinese economy gets ever thirstier for water resources, the concern is it will impact relations with that country’s neighbors. Beyond that, lack of water could thwart China’s economy, something that could ripple through the rest of the world.

"We’re looking at these trans-boundary issues," Tindall said. "A lot of water flows out of China. You’re getting water conflicts there, and these can be very deadly."

In July, Tindall hosted a delegation from Jordan to discuss water security and water inter-dependence issues. Water matters in the Middle East have the potential to spark conflict in an area where ideological differences are smoldering, according to Tindall.

"When you talk to some of these guys, a big thorn in their side is water," he said. "This is a source of irritation."

Tindall was well into a career with the U.S. Geological Survey when he learned of the CHDS - simply by poking around the internet while exploring his interests. So, about 16 years after earning his doctorate in Physics and Engineering from the University of Georgia, he enrolled in the CHDS program.

With this book and other research, Tindall mines seemingly disparate topics such as water security, intelligence, technology, critical infrastructure, economics and food supply and molds them into his homeland security-related research.

But to him, all those topics are related. He said he has always been interested in examining and synthesizing multiple sides of an issue, but that skill was perfected while a student at CHDS.

"I had always been thinking along those lines, but by writing the thesis and going to school, working with the different faculty and all the fields of expertise represented by my cohort members, it really allowed me to develop my synthesis skills to a much higher level," Tindall said.

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James Tindall, 2006 graduate of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security

His thesis focused on developing a network theory approach for sharing information on terrorist organizations, for which he won the Outstanding Thesis award for his cohort. Other writings have included using remote sensing to detect plant types on the ground, technology applicable to fighting drugs that can provide revenues to terrorist groups. Tindall’s work, he said, strives to examine whole systems.

"You have to look at systems separately and then combine them as a unit," Tindall said. "That’s what I try to do. The papers I have written are not unrelated. I always try to see the relations between many components."

Dr. Robert Simeral of the CHDS faculty said Tindall showed that skill while a student at the Center.

"He does very well at integrating concepts and synthesizing effectively; he’s proven to be very good at that," said Simeral, who also served as Tindall’s Thesis Advisor.

Outside of his professional life, Tindall works to instill his thirst for scientific knowledge in young people. A Native American, one of Tindall’s passions is fostering more interest in science in under-represented and minority students by participating in a group called Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success (MSPHD).

"I serve as a mentor to minority graduates students from all over the United States," he said. "I’m a real proponent of education. Minorities don’t get into school as often as other people lots of times because they live in poor neighborhoods and don’t have the opportunity. It’s not that they are not smart, they just don’t get the opportunities."

Tindall does make some time for hobbies off the job - he is an eight-degree black belt in Kenpo karate.

"When I get a chance, I go hiking," he added.