Growing urban populations and economic growth are putting more pressure on the watersheds and infrastructure supplying water to cities. This is where IUCN and IWA have joined forces in pulling together their knowledge, networks and resources to strengthen nature-based solutions for water security in urban areas.
A workshop to develop the new 'Basins of the Future' initiative took place during the recent International Water Association - IWA Congress in Busan, South Korea from 16-21 September. At this Congress over 3000 water professionals gathered to meet and discuss water issues, particularly in the areas of water infrastructure and supply.
"Watersheds are also part of the infrastructure package for purifying, supplying, and storing water. Just like engineered filtration systems, pipes, and dams, natural infrastructure such as watersheds, wetlands, and floodplains perform these functions, at a much lower cost. This is why investments in natural infrastructure should be part and parcel of the solutions portfolio. Basins of the Future will do just this; promote the inclusion of nature-based solutions to ensure the provision of clean and secure water to cities", said Mark Smith, Director IUCN Global Water Programme, during the IWA Congress session.
With a continued increase in water demand for food production, water abstractions for energy, and more irregular patterns of water availability due to climate change, multiple challenges abound globally for ensuring water security in urban centres. For example, water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries, and by 18 percent in developed countries. Increased water use also means increased wastewater, impacting downstream landscapes and further posing water management challenges.
"IWA with its network of over 10,000 water professionals and through its 'Cities of the Future' programme supports this new initiative to help cities, utilities, and the consulting and research community to work together to create robust and resilient water responses to imminent changes. The responses that appear to be most appropriate will require new kinds of partnerships and interconnectivity between sectors, such as IWA partnering with IUCN, working to ensure healthy basins can continue to supply safe water for cities in the future", said Katharine Cross, IWA Programme Coordinator.
IUCN is already working in various watersheds across the world in assisting governments and Members to protect and manage their watersheds for safe and secure urban water supply. For example, the Miyun watershed in China supplies the capital city of Beijing with 70 percent of its water. IUCN is supporting the Chinese government and partners in land management practices to protect the Miyun watershed. In Ecuador, IUCN supported the key role played by its Member organisations TNC and FONAG, in safeguarding the healthy functioning of the paramo, an upland ecosystem of South America. Through an innovative finance scheme, the paramo was left intact, resulting in a more secure water supply for the 2 million inhabitants of downstream Quito.
Such initiatives and success stories are useful in setting examples for other cities and motivate water managers to look at alternate, more sustainable and low-cost options. By tapping into wider networks with the International Water Association, IUCN hopes 'Basins of the Future' will grow as an initiative pulling together all elements of nature-based solutions whilst acting as a driver of economic growth.
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