Session FT 2.38
Ecosystem and Ecohydrology Approaches to Integrated Water Resources Management
UNESCO-IHP activities on the ecohydrology approach for integrated water resource management
UNEP/ILEC initiative on ecosystem approach to water management and monitoring
UNEP/OAS GEF International Waters projects in Latin America
An approach can also be promoted to mitigate impacts of human activities on the functioning of the ecosystems that regulate the quality and quantity of water resources. In recent years, more attention has been paid to impacts of contaminants that disturb ecosystem functioning at varying levels, such as heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants.
At the World Water Forum III, a session titled “Integrated Watershed Management” was organised on by UNESCO-IHP and UNEP-IETC. The session emphasized the need to develop, promote and develop synergistic approaches to integrated watershed management such as ecohydrology and phytotechnology. The need to implement carefully defined projects that demonstrate successful applications of these approaches was also recognized.
The session introduced the ecosystem and ecohydrology approaches, which promote the use of ecosystem goods and services for the benefit of water resources management. The ways in which these approaches have been applied into concrete actions taken at local levels were demonstrated through presentation of three Local Actions (LAs).
The three LAs that were presented at the session were carried out at different scales. The ecosystem and ecohydrology approaches can be applied at various ecosystems, conditions, regions, as well as scales, to effectively implement IWRM. However, differentiated actions would be necessary, depending on these various ecosystems, conditions, regions and scales.
The LAs all demonstrated a strong component of stakeholder involvement from the initial stages. This indicates that involving local stakeholders can lead to their understanding and appreciation of the ecosystem services and goods and the approaches taken in the area, and this can lead to successful demonstration of these approaches.
Securing the participation of local communities in demonstration projects is especially important in that it makes it possible for specific social, economic, political and cultural conditions of an area to define which ecosystem services and goods that actions can be built upon. For example, the Lake Naivasha case suggested that adopting paying for ecosystem services—which could lead to creation of alternative livelihoods—may work best for water.
Both the Pilica River and Sao Francisco case showed the potential for easily upscaling the results obtained on the ground by demonstration activities through long-term planning, setting strategies, or modelling.
All three cases demonstrated that the ecosystem and ecohydrology approaches could provide economically feasible solutions to problems associated with aquatic ecosystems, in combination with, or completely avoiding, options that involve building of infrastructure.
Although linkages between ecology and hydrology for IWRM can be achieved, true integration—for example, an integrated methodology to diagnose and assess ecosystem functions—is difficult to develop.
When discussing absorbing capacity enhancement for the ecohydrology approach, it would be necessary to develop methodologies to measure and monitor how such capacities are being enhanced.
- In applying the ecosystem or the ecohydrology approach, stakeholders should be clearly identified and their participation in the planning and decision-making processes be ensured.
- In order to better manage water resources, those involved in the water sector need to make efforts not only to study the ecosystem and hydrology, but also, how to communicate better to policy makers. In order to promote this inter-disciplinary education and management, a common language is necessary.
- In order to appropriately deal with the three aspects of sustainable water management—water, ecosystem and people—there is a need for a truly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach.
- In this regard, the need to move away from considering the “people” aspect as “socio-economic issues”, but rather, to consider political, social, economic and cultural issues and thereby focus on people’s relationship to water was noted.
- The ecosystem and ecohydrology approaches to IWRM are a step in the right direction towards achieving this transdisciplinarity.
Orientations for action
- There is clearly a need to further develop and implement demonstration activities, so that concrete effects of applying the ecosystem or ecohydrology approaches can be seen.
- UNESCO’s world network of ecohydrology demonstration projects, which was launched in 2005, has the potential to play an important role in providing the important link between education and ecohydrology by introducing the concept of ecohydrology in the classroom. The demonstration projects can also provide the vital link between science and policy.
- A number of UNEP/GEF International Water activities, which clearly demonstrate the results of the ecosystem approach taken, are under implementation or being planned. Further demonstration projects may be devised, such as application of Payment for Watershed Ecosystem Services.
- The results of ongoing demonstration activities can be sustained by involving key stakeholders and possibly applying economic instruments, such as payment for water-related ecosystem services.
- The organisations involved in the session can play strategic roles in sustaining and reinforcing demonstration activities, and work towards upscaling the results of these activities to different scales and in different parts of the world. This would enhance the applicability of the ecosystem and ecohydrology approaches to address the various environmental and social issues in the catchment and thereby effectively implement IWRM.
Local Actions presented
Application of Ecohydrology and Phytotechnology for Integrated Water Resources Management and Sustainable Management
This UNESCO-IHP demonstration project in Pilica River, Central Poland, applies ecohydrology and phytotechnology to manage water resources in order to achieve sustainable development. The project develops the ecohydrology approach to mitigate toxic algal blooms in a lowland reservoir recreational area and an additional drinking water supply for the nearby city of Lodz. Understanding the relationships between hydrological patterns of the reservoir’s tributaries and nutrient transport is a basis for reducing nutrient loads. Optimization of floodplain hydraulics maximizes nutrient retention by both physical sedimentation and conversion into biomass that can be used as bioenergy, providing an alternative income for local communities.
This Local Action identifies the need for:
- Harmonizing waste-water treatment technologies with ecohydrology and phytotechnology, to convert pollutants into bioenergy in constructed wetlands;
- Elaborating a management strategy for the use of biomass produced in the area;
- Creating confidence and raising awareness of local and regional stakeholders, decision-makers, governmental units, NGOs and the general public;
- Working towards integration and up-scaling of results achieved.
Lake Naivasha/Malewa Basin Ecohydrology Demonstration site
The ecosystem services of the natural vegetation of Lake Naivasha—the second-largest freshwater lake in Kenya and a Ramsar wetland—have been almost totally destroyed in the last two decades. The problem is both under and above water—the complete change in natural vegetation due to introduction of various alien species under water, and the horticultural industry, which has become one of the largest earners of foreign currency, above water. This has resulted in increased sediment and nutrient inputs, biodiversity loss and habitat degradation.
- In order to deal with these environmental problems, this LA emphasized the need for:
- scaling up—from lake to basin level;
- a shift in intellectual thinking—from water to water cycle; and
- a change in the approach towards the ecosystem: from working on conservation to restoration.
Ecohydrology was proposed as an effective approach to solve the environmental issues in Lake Naivasha, at the same time appropriately reflecting these three needs. The first step in this process—which will be undertaken as a UNESCO-IHP demonstration project—is to re-create a papyrus buffering zone around the lake’s shoreline. Lake Naivasha Riparian Association, which was legally gazetted by the Kenyan Government, is expected to play an important role in this process.
Sociedades Comunidad - Gobierno y participacion popular como instrumento de Reflorestaction de vegetacion ciliar y conservacion ambiental
The Sao Francisco River Basin in Brazil covers 637,000 km2. The river basin and its associated coastal areas are of strategic importance to the development of a vast region. To meet the challenge of optimisation and harmonisation of various types of water uses (hydropower, shipping, irrigation, fishing, tourism, pollution control, water supply, etc.), an ANA (Brazilian national water agency)/OAS/UNEP project funded by GEF has been implemented. The project focuses on the identification of causes for degradation of water resources in the basin and the extent of the impacts of the human activities in the basin on coastal areas. The project established a Strategic Action Programme, based on the national water resources policy and programme
The project mobilised a wide range of stakeholders in the formulation of the Strategic Action Programme. The demonstration projects at the local scale involve a range of local stakeholders. Consequently, the following set of actions was reported:
- Participation of more than 12,000 people and 483 organizations in public participation events during the execution of the LA.
- Participation of 594 representatives from 191 organizations concerned with the development of the basin.
- Establishment of a dialogue process between the government, the agricultural sector, and the organized civil society in the Rio das Fêmeas sub-basin on the issues of water rights and conjunctive use of underground and superficial water.
- Development and implementation of a partnership between the community and the government for the design and implementation of economic reforestation projects and promotion of soil conservation practices in the pilot-area of the Municipality of Luz.
- Extensive public awareness and education programmes and community-based water quality monitoring programmes were implemented.