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Releasing the Pressure: Water Resource Efficiencies and Gains for Ecosystem Services

This report discusses the need to balance short-term water productivity gains, particularly in agriculture, with water flows’ long-term role in maintaining sustainable landscape ecosystem services and supporting human well-being.

Jennie Barron, Mats Lannerstad / Published on 10 March 2012

Keys, P.; Barron, J., and Lannerstad, M. (2012). Releasing the Pressure: Water Resource Efficiencies and Gains for Ecosystem Services. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme, and Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute.

Water is under increasing pressure for supporting both various functions in society whilst sustaining healthy ecosystem services in landscapes, and there is a growing need to consider the productivity of how water can be used for multiple benefits.

Releasing-pressure-150 Water productivity is a concept used to assess water use and resource efficiency. However, due to the multiple uses of water by humans and ecosystems, it is not evident that one measure of efficiency can capture the multifaceted and multi-sectoral benefits that water provides. It is important to consider water productivity in terms of the trade-offs between managed agricultural ecosystem services and the surrounding landscape ecosystem services, and think of resource efficiency in those terms.

This report outlines 10 key messages on the nexus of water productivity, water flows in landscapes and ecosystem services, and illustrates them with case studies. It is geared to practitioners in the areas of planning and management of agriculture, planning of land-use, forestry, biofuels, and water, and natural resource management.

The goal is to encourage practitioners to begin exploring what types of ecosystem services gains and trade-offs exist in their local context, such as watersheds, landscapes, countries, or basins, and how they may be linked to the allocation of water.

Download the report (PDF, 2.7MB)

Read a policy brief based on the report»

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