'Natural water infrastructure' is not built infrastructure. Instead, it is shaped, grown, eroded or deposited by nature over time. It refers to services nature provides for free, such as mangroves protecting shorelines from storms, peatlands sequestering carbon, wetlands filtering contaminated water, lakes storing large water supplies, and floodplains absorbing excess water runoff.
These natural water services perform an infrastructure-like function and are part of what is termed 'Nature-based Solutions'.
Working with natural infrastructure - provided it is healthy - can amplify and optimise the performance as well as the financial returns of engineered water infrastructure such as dams, levees and reservoirs. For example, when forests upstream are kept intact, water and soil run-off will be regulated by trees, which in turn safeguards reservoirs from sedimentation build-up, reducing costly clean-up efforts and ensuring continued electricity generation.
Yet natural water infrastructure is not always accounted for, and as a result, is often sidelined in grey infrastructure projects. This can have negative social and environmental impacts. It can also reduce the natural adaptability of river basins to cope with climate change, and therefore weaken its resilience.
Find out more in our new visual story feature 'Nature-based Solutions for Water: Infrastructure at your service': https://digital.iucn.org/water/nature-based-solutions-for-water/