Nature-based solutions can play an important role in improving the supply and quality of water and reducing the impact of natural disasters, according to the newly launched 2018 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report.
The study, presented at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia (Brazil) by Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Gilbert Houngbo and Chair of UN-Water, argues that reservoirs, irrigation canals and water treatment plants are not the only water management instruments at our disposal.
The said while use of nature-based solutions remains marginal and almost all investments are still channelled to grey infrastructure projects, to satisfy growing demand for water, green infrastructure appears is a promising solution complementing traditional approaches.
Authors of the report call for greater balance between traditional and nature-based solutions, especially given that nature-based solutions are best aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN in 2015. Coordinated by the UN World Water Assessment Programme of UNESCO, the UN World Water Development Report is is the fruit of collaboration between the 31 UN entities and 39 international partners that comprise UN-Water. Its publication coincides with World Water Day, marked every year on 22 March.
Titled “Nature-based Solutions for Water, the report recognises water not as an isolated element, but as an integral part of a complex natural process that involves evaporation, precipitation and the absorption of water through the soil.
“We need new solutions in managing water resources so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change. If we do nothing, some five billion people will be living in areas with poor access to water by 2050.
“This Report proposes solutions that are based on nature to manage water better. This is a major task all of us need to accomplish together responsibly so as to avoid water related conflicts,” said the UNESCO DG.
According to Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development: “For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or ‘grey’, infrastructure to improve water management.
In so doing, it has often brushed aside traditional and Indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches.
“Three years into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is time for us to re-examine nature-based solutions (NBS) to help achieve water management objectives.”
It is estimated that agricultural production could be increased by about 20 percent worldwide if greener water management practices were used.
One study cited by the Report reviewed agricultural development projects in 57 low-income countries and found that using water more efficiently combined with reductions in the use of pesticides and improvements in soil cover, increased average crop yields by 79 percent.
Green solutions have also shown great potential in urban areas. While vegetated walls and roof gardens are perhaps the most recognizable examples, others include measures to recycle and harvest water, water retention hollows to recharge groundwater and the protection of watersheds that supply urban areas.