World Water Week 2018: Water, ecosystems and human development

In 2018, World Water Week will focus on the very basis of our existence: the ecosystems on which all life depends, and the critical role of water in their functions.

We depend on healthy ecosystems as habitats for plant and animal life, and for services for human development and well-being. In our development efforts we invariably affect and change our environment, but we need to do so without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

The UN’s theme for the 2018 World Water Day and World Water Development Report is “nature-based solutions”. The 2018 Thematic Scope will go further to explore the wider water, ecosystems and human development agenda.

The systems perspective – water and ecosystems from source to sea

Whether in rural or urban areas, in mountains or near the coast, we all live in river basins in which upstream developments affect downstream conditions. We need to understand and manage these river basins, and the ecosystems within them as one inter-dependent system.

The development perspective – balancing green and grey solutions

Nature-based solutions, and “green” investments, that take advantage of the natural systems and processes can create win-win situations that provide economic and societal benefits while maintaining ecosystem integrity or even improving environmental conditions.

The human and social perspective – a people’s agenda

Human health and well-being depend on how we manage and protect the natural systems around us. Respect for ecosystems values require understanding of their vital role in sustaining life and underpinning development. It particularly concerns human health, as communities caught in the poverty trap may be forced to use their natural resources base unsustainably.

The economic perspective – rethinking ecosystems values

In the spirit of a circular economy our approach to development and growth needs to be increasingly multi-facetted and green. Investments in infrastructure, whether built or natural, as well as payment for ecosystem services, must be based on a proper assessment of environmental and social ecosystem cost and benefits.

The governance perspective – towards integrated water and ecosystems management

While our ecosystems underpin all development, they also represent competing demands for water among the human needs for water supply, food, energy and other uses. Good water and ecosystem governance is at the heart of sustainable development.

Want to find out more about how to get engaged in the Week? Read the Call for Engagement for World Water Week 2018 here.