A drop of life

Water is the most important natural resource on the planet. It is central to sustainable development and achieving water security, in the face of global over-use of water and climate change, is one of the highest environment issues on the political, business and public agendas. But how can we ensure that water is managed in a sustainable manner? An event during the Fourteenth Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in Nairobi, attended by members of the IUCN delegation, has put forward some important solutions to this ever growing problem.

The Kaieture waterfall in Guyana, the world's tallest single drop water fall, proudly stands 275m high. Photo: WWF Guianas

We often focus on water quantity much more than on water quality. But deterioration of water quality threatens aquatic biodiversity and reduces the economic value of ecosystem services. The need to restore these services creates additional costs - costs are already high now and they will continue to grow as populations and urbanisation increase.

But there are ways to deal with this. Firstly, we can prevent water pollution before ecosystems become degraded and before we are forced to concentrate our efforts and money on their restoration. We can also develop and implement a strategy for expanded water and waste water treatment. And finally, by managing ecosystems properly, we can let nature do the job for us and allow ecosystems, such as wetlands, to clean the water. This way we can respond to the water quality problem in the cheapest and most sustainable manner.

“Sustained access to safe water for drinking and food production is one of the keys to reducing poverty and achieving universal primary education” says Dr Emmanuel Mwendera, Water Programme Coordinator from IUCN’s East and Southern Africa office. “Water is an essential environmental resource and developing countries need support from global partners to deal with water scarcity”.

Water is the key to achieving all the Millennium Development Goals. To secure water resources for our future, we need clear policies, strategies and plans for managing water ecosystems and the associated biodiversity.

The event consisted of presentations by Thomas Chiramba of Freshwater Ecosystems Unit, Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, UNEP, David Coates of the Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat and Nick Davidson of Ramsar.

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