Ecosystems – such as forests, wetlands and grasslands – are a critical part 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.
Challenges and opportunitiesEcosystems mitigate the effects of floods and drought. ‘Ecosystem services’ can contribute to wastewater treatment as an alternative or supplement to conventional water treatment systems. The water purification process provided by aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems supplies water suitable for drinking, industry, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Also, the resources embedded in wastewater, including valuable water, nutrients and organic carbon, can be used for ecosystem rejuvenation in appropriate circumstances, enhancing ecosystems services with major benefits for economies and societies.
A paradigm shift is taking place, with ecosystems being recognized as an integral part of development solutions. This reflects the steps being taken towards better integrated water resources management, and therefore more sustainable development.