Ridge to Reef – Managing Water Resources from Source to Sea

27 April 2010 | News story

As more people live in urban environments and along coastal stretches, recognizing the impacts of water management from source to sea is vital. These links, across multiple habitats and ecosystems are often poorly understood.

Yet the impact of polluted freshwater flows can be devastating for estuaries, wetlands, and the marine environment. These areas will come under increasing pressure, as climate change impacts freshwater flows and meteorological conditions, threatening biodiversity and the livelihoods dependent on them.

Important functional relationships exist between river basins and coastal areas. The two systems are linked through both natural processes (water flows and sediment) and human activities (urban development, rural activities, infrastructure, waste and pollution). Coastal areas are valuable as they concentrate a rich diversity of natural habitat areas and a large variety of natural resources. River basins are important as natural ecosystems, providing a range of direct and indirect services to people, flora and fauna. The geography of coastal areas and river basins provide opportunities for a wide range of human development activities.

Following the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS) Initiative in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, new developing Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) work will address some of the critical root causes of unsustainable practices in watersheds which flow into the marine environment. The IUCN Mesoamerica Region and Caribbean Initiative will take the lead, together with the IUCN Asia and Oceania Regions in developing a global initiative on Ridge to Reef water management practices to support ecosystem services and improve riparian and coastal livelihoods. A workshop in Punta Leona, Costa Rica will take place in May to understand Ridge to Reef water management processes and their roles within integrated water resource management (IWRM) and coastal zone management (ICZM).

Coastal zones are essential parts of a river basin, yet they are often managed in isolation. Better recognition and approaches are required to manage river basins and their coastal areas in an integrated manner, based on ecological, hydrological, and socio-economic relationships. Recognising the close connection between rivers and their catchments leads to healthier flows and better watershed management approaches. However there is also a need to extend these approaches to include estuarine and marine areas. This is especially important where the population is supported by the marine-freshwater interface, such as in large deltas, islands, and reef and lagoon systems.

For further information please contact:
Mesoamerica Water Programme Coordinator: rocio.cordoba@iucn.org