Water security and ecosystem services: The critical connection (2009)

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We live in a world of ecosystems – and our existence would not be possible without the life-supporting services they provide. Properly-functioning ecosystems in turn are fundamentally related to water security. This report, although brief in content, is meant to serve as food for thought about the linkages and interactions between human survival and well-being, and about the ecosystem services and water security that result from these linkages and interactions. This complex topic requires discussion at many levels of government, society and science. Continuing experience around the world, however, highlights the fact that water security and ecosystem services must be viewed with the same degree of importance in national development programmes as do social welfare and economic growth.  These considerations are also relevant to achieving the targets outlined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, however, the results of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment clearly illustrate that we are failing to recognise these linkages and ensure their sustainability. Instead, humanity is continuing to over-exploit and pollute ecosystems throughout the world, and at all scales.

This report makes the link between sustainable development and ecosystem services, highlighting that the former is not possible without the latter. Economic development in turn requires an adequate natural resources base, and humans are constantly engaged in activities to access these resources. The dilemma is that the activities involved in accessing and using these resources, although directed to beneficial uses, also have the potential to negatively impact the very ecosystems that provide them in the first place. Thus, activities that result in ecosystem degradation can be significant constraints to sustainable development.

The role of water security in addressing ecosystem sustainability is fundamental to this goal. As discussed in this report, continued provision of ecosystem services for human welfare and economic development is dependent on properly-functioning and sustainable ecosystem services. Further, water security is at the core of sustainable ecosystem management,.. The dual goal of ecosystem sustainability and water security must be pursued vigorously and in a timely manner, since it could take decades before we master the political, institutional and technical aspects that enable humanity to use the full potential of ecosystem management for water security. This report is meant to highlight this reality, and to provide examples of cases in which various measures were used to facilitate ecosystem sustainability and water security. Although only providing a brief discussion of these important issues, it is hoped this report will provide the impetus necessary for governments, non-governmental organisations, industry, agriculture and other ecosystem services stakeholders to consider such issues in addressing both our short-term needs and our long-term goals.
Language: English
Imprint: UNEP, 2009: http://www.unep.org/Themes/Freshwater/PDF/The_critical_connection.pdf 2009
Series: Report,