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Releasing the Pressure: Water Resource Efficiencies and Gains for Ecosystem Services (Policy brief)

This policy brief focuses on a key shortcoming of commonly used definitions of ‘water productivity’: their narrow scope, which ignores many important benefits from water use.

Jennie Barron, Mats Lannerstad / Published on 12 March 2012

Keys, P.; Barron, J., and Lannerstad, M. (2012). Releasing the Pressure: Water Resource Efficiencies and Gains for Ecosystem Services (Policy brief). UNEP and SEI Policy Brief.

Taking such an approach can result in water productivity gains in a single sector – usually agriculture – that are out of balance with landscape ecosystem services. Still, that has been the centre piece of water management efforts over the last decades, especially in agriculture.

There has been a focus on producing more ‘crop per drop’ or more ‘crop per $’, with little regard for the water needed to sustain non-agricultural ecosystem services in landscapes. This has been detrimental to the production of ecosystem services in all types of landscapes.

This policy brief, based on a report produced for the United Nations Environment Programme, explains key concepts, and suggests ways to build these insights into integrated water resource management (IWRM) practices:

  • By recognising the water requirements of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem services;
  • By connecting with the entire basin, which allows for local win-win synergies of increased agro-ecosystem output and
    landscape output to be amplified with regional coordination and planning; and
  • By improving overall water productivity for ecosystems services, thus increasing the resilience of local and regional livelihoods.

Download the policy brief (PDF, 637kb)

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