Nature Based Solutions
At the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia on 20 March 2018, the World Water Development Report (WWDR) on Nature Based Solutions (NBS) was released. The report seeks to inform policy and decision-makers about the potential of NBS to address contemporary water management challenges across all sectors, and particularly regarding water for agriculture, sustainable cities, disaster risk reduction and water quality.
We are facing a broad range of challenges, such as unsustainable urbanisation and related human health issues, degradation and loss of natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides (clean air, water and soil), climate change and an alarming increase of natural disaster risks. Currently over 70% of Europe's population live in cities, expected to increase to over 80% by the middle of the century. This translates to 36 million new urban citizens, who will need housing, employment and care by 2050. Water management remains heavily dominated by traditional, human-built (i.e. ‘grey’) infrastructure and the enormous potential for NBS remains under-utilized. NBS include green infrastructure that can substitute, augment or work in parallel with grey infrastructure in a cost-effective manner. The goal is to find the most appropriate blend of green and grey investments to maximize benefits and system efficiency while minimizing costs and trade-offs.
But what are NBS and how can they realistically address the current global environmental crises? NBS “protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. They use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge), improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and reduce risks associated with water-related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs).
The WWDR demonstrates how NBS offer a vital means of moving beyond business-as-usual to address many of the world’s water challenges while simultaneously delivering additional benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development.
Read the full report here.