Water is the bloodstream of nature, and wise stewardship of freshwater, from the very local to the regional, is central to human development and prosperity. But over-use and mismanagement of freshwater resources now threatens the functioning of ecosystems that are crucial to human activities.
Water Resilience for Human Prosperity, co-authored by researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, SEI and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, analyses the problems and provides examples of successful water resource management. A main focus of the book is the use of freshwater for food production.
There are two major forces impacting the water cycle and threatening the stability of water flows, and both are human-induced. The first is related to land-use change due to agricultural intensification, de-forestation, afforestation, or urbanization. This in turn alters the release of water into the atmosphere from vegetation and affects soil moisture that is needed for vegetation growth. The second is human consumption of water for irrigation in agriculture, for households and industries. This affects river flows and groundwater levels, with detrimental effects for many ecosystems and for human activities that depend on them.
But solutions are within reach. Through careful management of water resources and knowledge of the interaction between humans and nature, we can maximize the sustainable use of limited available resources.
In India, investment in watershed management, such as water storage in landscapes (in the form of small dams or natural features such as streams) has been effective in bridging dry spells. Now, water is in the right place at the right time, and in turn means that the local communities can produce more biomass per drop of water. This is essential to meet the needs of an expanding population.
The key message of Water Resilience for Human Prosperity is that by identifying and understanding the available water resources for humans and nature, we can find solutions at a local level that provide prosperity for longer and for more people.
Learn more and order the book (external link to publisher)
Video: Interview with co-author and SEI researcher Jennie Barron