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Water and Ecosystems


Ecosystems – including, for example, forests, wetlands and grassland components – lie at the heart of the global water cycle. All freshwater ultimately depends on the continued healthy functioning of ecosystems, and recognizing the water cycle as a biophysical process is essential to achieving sustainable water management.


Water availability and quality, in terms of direct use by humans, are also ecosystem services, as are the benefits ecosystems offer to mitigate the extremes of  drought and flood.


The subject of ‘water demand’ by ecosystems therefore involves identifying ecosystem ‘deliverables’ and managing water accordingly. The valuation of these services is central to this, and the advances made over the past 20 years provide a range of techniques that can be used in practice.


A new paradigm is emerging, which shifts understanding of the ‘ecosystem’ (environment) as an unfortunate but necessary cost of development to an integral part of development solutions. Ecosystems are increasingly seen as solutions to water problems, not just as a casualty. This is a welcome and positive trend as it also reflects improvement in dialogue and a step towards better-integrated water resources management, and therefore more sustainable development.


Source: World Water Development Report 2012


Last update:07 Oct 2014