Jan 5, 2015

Environmental Sustainability and #Water

Reduced water quantity and quality have serious negative impacts on ecosystems. The environment has a natural absorptive, self-cleansing capacity; however, if this is exceeded, biodiversity is lost, livelihoods are affected, natural food sources are damaged and high clean-up costs result. Unesco (2003) points out that increased environmental damage has led to a greater occurrence of natural disasters, such as floods where deforestation and soil erosion have prevented natural water attenuation. More specifically, between 1991 and 2000 over 665,000 people died in 2,557 natural disasters— 90% of which were water-related and 97% of the victims were from developing countries.  Based on this marked increase, Hideaki (2005) proposes that the target to halve human loss due to water disasters by 2015 be added to the MDGs.

Additionally, unsustainable agricultural activities such as the draining of wetlands for agriculture and land clearance, among others, lead to significant negative impacts on the future availability of water (Unesco, 2003). The reduction and degradation of natural water courses due to deforestation and over-extraction of water have put many wetlands and marine ecosystems at risk.  Therefore, ecosystem health, in turn, is critical to the quantity and quality of freshwater supply and, thus, sustainable water resources management requires ecosystem-based management.  IWRM Plans do not regard the ecosystem as a user of water in competition with other users, but as the base from which the resource is derived and upon which development is planned (Jewitt, 2001).

Furthermore, water quality is an aspect of freshwater availability that also has a major impact on environmental sustainability (see e.g. Lenton, Wright, and Lewis; 2005).  Water quality currently represents a significant problem in several countries created or aggravated by anthropogenic causes, such as pollution discharges into surface water bodies and leaching of contaminants into underground water sources.   Adequate treatment and disposal of waste contributes to reduce the pressure of freshwater resources. Therefore, improved water quality management is a key factor in maintaining ecosystems integrity.

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