March 19, 2009
“Many of the world’s big cities have understood that protecting their catchment areas makes economic sense. Rather than chopping down the forests or draining their marshlands, they are keeping them healthy and saving billions of dollars by not having to pay for costly infrastructure to store water, clean it or bring it from elsewhere,” says Mark Smith, head of IUCN’s Water Programme.
The IUCN points to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, which sources its water from 60 rivers that originate in Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park. The free water is worth an estimated $1.5 billion dollars.
The capital of Venezuela, Caracas, also relies on rivers in national parks. Guatopo and Macarao National Parks provide the city's 5 million residents with a constant supply of freshwater.
Improving degraded river systems can also have huge impacts on the availability of freshwater. Better water management in South Africa's world famous Kruger National Park has improved the availability of water both for humans and animal.
“Kruger’s main five rivers have suffered from pollution and unsustainable water use upstream which led to some of them drying up completely. After implementing a large river-related programme with the agriculture, forestry and mining industries, we have seen an improvement in flows. Previously disappeared species have re-colonised, and fewer unnatural fish kills have occurred,” says Harry Biggs, Programme Integrator at South African National Parks and leader of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas Freshwater Task Force.
Foreseeing a global water crisis, IUCN currently estimates that two-thirds of the world's population will face water shortages by 2025. One of the best ways to prevent such shortages is protecting existing watersheds and improving water management before a crisis hits.
“Healthy river systems are essential to maintain the livelihoods of local communities. The objectives of sustainable development can only be achieved if nature continues to provide freshwater that everyone needs,” says David Sheppard, Head of IUCN’s Programme on Protected Areas
Watersheds are threatened worldwide urban development, agricultural run-off, deforestation, land-use changes, dams, pollution from mining, invasive species, erosion, drought, and climate change.
California faces severe drought
(01/30/2009) California appears to be on track for its worst drought since the early 1990s, warned the state's Department of Water Resources (DWR) following its survey of snowpack and other water resources.
Saline agriculture may be the future of farming
(12/04/2008) Accessible and unpolluted freshwater is a necessity for every nation's stability and well-being. Yet, while the demand for freshwater continues to rise, its sources face increasing threats from salinization, a process whereby the salt content of fresh water rises until the water becomes undrinkable and unusable in agriculture: the more salt in the soil, the lower the crop yield.
Climate change will cost California billions
(11/14/2008) $2.5 trillion of real estate assets in California are at risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise and wildfires expected to result from climate change over the course of a century, according to a new assessment from UC Berkeley researchers.
There is enough water for everyone provided it is well-managed and distributed
(08/21/2008) An increasingly-popular view of our future is an exponentially thirsty world where billions lack access to fresh water, leading to widespread famine and wars over water instead of oil. If this sounds like science fiction, the UN has predicted that by 2050 seven billion people will suffer from water scarcity. Putting that number in perspective: today's entire global population is not yet seven billion people.
Forests cover 1/3 of U.S. but are responsible for 2/3 of its water supply
(07/16/2008) The single most important function of U.S. forests is their role in securing the country's freshwater supply at a time when water demand is surging but climate risks to forests are also increasing, say the authors of a new federal report released by the National Research Council.