Ecosystem Services and Water Security

Authored by: Sarah Hendry , Geoffrey Gooch

Routledge Handbook of Ecosystem Services

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138025080
eBook ISBN: 9781315775302
Adobe ISBN:


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Water is a cross-cutting issue that is interconnected with many different ecosystems services. For example, within the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, UN General Assembly, 2000), those goals related to water, such as improving access to drinking water and sanitation, the only ones that affected the achievement of every other MDG. The interconnectivity of the ‘water / food / energy nexus’ (see, for example, Bonn Nexus, 2011) reminds us of the threat of the ‘perfect storm’ (Beddington, 2009); water is required to support the supply of food and energy whilst remaining indispensable to human and other life in itself, and the demand for all three is rising inexorably. Although the volume of water on earth remains constant, and is theoretically self-renewing and self-cleansing through the hydrological cycle at a global level, the proportion of freshwater is only 2.5% of the total water available (UNEP, 2008). Within that percentage, the tiny fraction of freshwater available for human use is threatened locally by pollution and over-abstraction, and by climate change, urbanisation and population growth. Water provides ecosystem services in all categories. Using the CICES system (Haines-Young and Potschin, 2013; Potschin and Haines-Young, 2016) it is a provisioning service in its own right, and also essential to provision of food, some fuels and fibre. Regulating services include flood regulation and water purification, and again water plays a role in the regulation of disease and of climate. And in cultural services, water provides aesthetic, spiritual, educational and recreational benefits. It is also part of the mechanism for the underpinning ‘supporting’ services in classifications that use these (MA, 2005). All life as we understand it depends on water.

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