How can we ensure access to clean water under the pressures of a growing population and changing climate conditions? Increasing water infrastructure is one possible method, but the SNAPP Water Security working group proposes that it would be more effective and less costly to secure clean water supplies through protecting and restoring ecosystems. Their publication in Environmental Science & Policy explores the potential for the growing trend of investments in watershed services (IWS) to address the universal concern of securing clean water.
IWS are ecosystem-based solutions for water security that focus on protecting and restoring ecosystems that are associated with critical water sources. The authors present three main motivating premises behind IWS solutions: tackling water quality problems at the source may be more cost-effective than addressing the issues downstream, protecting source water areas has the potential to provide water quantity benefits, and in some cases, IWS may even provide hydrologic stability to increase reliability of local water supplies. The utilization of IWS is increasing worldwide, but many regions that are ecologically suited to implement IWS have not done so.
The SNAPP Water Security team investigated the economic, environmental, and sociopolitical barriers that prevent the application of IWS and also identified the conditions that would favor such a program. The authors found that most market structures favor the engineering of water infrastructure as a solution, despite its high cost. The authors recommend improved accounting and reporting protocols to enhance information sharing on current IWS initiatives and align policy and financial incentives across stakeholder parties. They also point to the private sector as an institution with the power to standardize the implementation of IWS, suggesting that these parties could play an important role in taking IWS to its full potential if incentives are appropriately aligned.
Mainstreaming investments in watershed services to enhance water security: Barriers and opportunities
Vogla, A.L., Goldsteinc, J.H., Dailya, G.C., Virae, B., Bremera, L., McDonaldf, R.I., Shemieg, D., Tellmanh, B., Cassini, J.
Environmental Science & Policy, May 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2017.05.007