By 2025, two thirds of the world’s population will be living in water stressed conditions. Over the past century, urbanization and intensive agricultural activities have contributed to the degradation of water ecosystems and the loss of natural environments, along with the services they provide. Degradation is occurring at alarming rates, under the burden of climate change and its associated impacts. With the 2018 theme for World Water Day focused on nature-based solutions (NBS), there is growing recognition of the potential for natural capital approaches to address water challenges. In accordance with this sentiment, the United Nations 2018 World Water Development Report suggests that NBS are essential to achieving sustainable water security, particularly in the way they address various water risks simultaneously to build system-wide resilience.
What exactly are nature-based solutions? The International Union for Conservation of Nature, defines NBS as “as actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, which address societal challenges (e.g. climate change, food and water security or natural disasters) effectively and adaptively, while simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.
The International Water Association (IWA) has partnered with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to advance sustainable catchment management through nature-based solutions. The joint initiative aims to encourage and facilitate active utility involvement in watershed management and promote stronger connections between water utilities and regulatory bodies. The partnership aims to contribute new insights to the body of knowledge against which NBS can be assessed. Building a robust knowledge base and supporting opportunities for cross-sector collaboration are fundamental to the mainstreaming of these practices.
IWA and TNC are engaged with utilities and regulators across the world that have reported an interest in NBS or are involved in NBS programs. The organizations seek to connect their networks and design activities that promote and enable improved watershed management that integrates nature-based solutions.