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Does Nature Have the Solutions to Our Water Problems?


Every year, on the 22 March, we celebrate World Water Day to draw attention to the importance of water for humankind and our planet. The theme of this year’s World Water Day is ‘Nature for Water.’ According to the 2018 edition of the UN World Water Development Report (WWRD 2018) launched this week, if we want to address our planet’s current water challenges, we need to look to natural solutions. Sustainable water management cannot be achieved through business-as-usual. We must increase the use of so-called, nature-based solutions (WWRD 2018).

The global water cycle is facing many challenges. The overall water demand is increasing mainly because the global population is growing, economies are emerging, and consumption patterns are changing. Climate change is intensifying the water cycle, which means that dry areas are becoming drier and wet regions are becoming wetter. The majority of rivers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have become more polluted, presumably due to population and economic growth as well as the lack of wastewater management systems. Over 5 billion people could be affected by water shortages by 2050. Simply put, our planet and societies are facing several severe water management challenges, and affordable and effective sustainable solutions are urgently needed.

Learning from Nature

The good news is – we don’t have to come up with brilliant new solutions. The natural world surrounding us offers a multitude of so-called nature-based solutions to conserve and rehabilitate water ecosystems, across all sectors, and particularly regarding sustainable agriculture and sustainable cities. Nature-based solutions (NBS) – actions that are inspired and supported by nature, and use, or mimic, natural processes to manage resources – provide multiple services to address these challenges and offer further benefits.

Constructed Wetlands are an example of an untapped low-tech, cost-effective NBS for pollution control, securing water supply, and improving agricultural resource management.

Constructed Wetlands are an example of an untapped low-tech, cost-effective NBS for pollution control, securing water supply, and improving agricultural resource management. They are engineered systems using the natural functions of soil, plants, and microorganisms to retain water and improve water quality. Moreover, they recycle nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorous), provide habitats and contribute to recreation, education, research, and landscape enhancement (under appropriate circumstances).

A study from the United Nations University (UNU-FLORES) shows that with the strategic introduction to an ecosystem at the collection and treatment point of wastewater, a community of 500 can irrigate about a hectare of agricultural land and fertilize five to seven hectares. Harvested plants from constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can provide 12% of a village’s cooking fuel needs.

A constructed wetland has been installed along with a resettlement project in the City of Bayawan in the Philippines. Before, families living in informal areas directly discharged their wastewater into the sea. The City Health Office recorded a high number of cases arising from waterborne diseases (e.g. diarrhea). The settlement was relocated at the city outskirts and a new wastewater management system was built. The system consists of sewer pipes with small diameters and a combination of different types of constructed wetlands. Thanks to the new system, in total, people residing in 676 homes now benefit from safe sanitation and wastewater treatment. Moreover, coastal waters are protected from pollution and treated wastewater is reused in a horticulture and vegetable farming project.

More Knowledge Sharing is Needed

Though there are many such projects worldwide, there is a lack of information at all levels and the knowledge base on constructed wetlands needs to be improved. The Dresden-based institute of the UNU-FLORES is currently developing the Constructed Wetlands Knowledge Platform entailing an interactive map and a comprehensive database to assess the amount of wastewater treated globally by constructed wetlands and to support scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, and civil society in their efforts to establish this technology.

Nature-based solutions such as constructed wetlands can provide multiple benefits to local communities and the environment. Successful projects have been implemented around the world. Still, there is a lack of information on these nature-based solutions, such as constructed wetlands, addressing local water challenges. More projects, such as the one by UNU-FLORES, are needed to improve the knowledge base and its accessibility – so that more nature-based solutions can be implemented to enhance water availability, improve water quality, and reduce risks associated with water-related disasters and climate change.

10 Comments on "Does Nature Have the Solutions to Our Water Problems?"

  1. DerHundistlos on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 12:01 am 

    For those in search of truth, watch the shocking Discovery Channel/BBC documentary posted to YouTube titled, “Conspiracy of Silence” about the widespread sexual abuse of the boys at Boys’ Town by numerous national Republican politicians and wealthy Republican donors (Note: my nephew was sexually abused by these perverts when he was 14/15 and was so disturbed that he committed suicide at age 17- he was bright, athletic, kind, and good looking with his whole life in front of him). You will hear former Republican Nebraska State Senator and chairman of the state committee charged with investigating the affair, Loran Schmit, state that the pedophilia reached the highest levels of the Republican Party. Despite tremendous pressure from the Reagan Whitehouse and RNC to bury the scandal, Senator Schmit refused to be intimidated. The senator was so shocked and disgusted by the findings of the investigative committee that he resigned from the Republican party and returned to farming. Thank you, Senator Schmit, for your integrity.
    The Republican National Committee attempted to whitewash the Boys’ Town scandal by purchasing the documentary’s publication rights for a monumental sum; fortunately, a few copies were leaked before the evidence could be destroyed. Sadly, few people are aware of the Boys’ Town tragedy, which is why I am doing everything possible to make the public aware of the facts.

    Here is the YouTube address for the documentary, “Conspiracy of Silence”

  2. Dredd on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 1:04 am 

    “As climate litigation heats up, a judge’s climate science tutorial puts the fossil fuel industry in an awkward position with the science deniers it once funded.” (The Climate Is Changing For Climate Skeptics).

  3. ohanian on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 2:01 am 

    Of course Nature has a solution.
    It’s call drink coconut water.
    Just let them eat cake
    I mean buy Coconut water from the supermarket.

  4. dave thompson on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 2:42 am 

    “Does Nature Have the Solutions to Our Water Problems?”

    YES! Nature built a biological solution right in to life it is called extinction.

  5. GregT on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 2:58 am 

    “Does Nature Have the Solutions to Our Water Problems?”

    Nature has far more to be concerned about with the human problem, than she does about the humans’ water problem.

  6. Norman Pagett on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 6:44 am 

    there are tent cities in the middle of african deserts with 20/30,000 people and all water has to be trucked in

    there is no ‘natural’ solution for that.

    there are no natural water sources for them, nature is saying they shouldnt be there, but they are—their position is unsustainable and relies entirely on fossil fuels to bring water in.

    we promise them more, but ultimately there is no more

    the book The End of More (Pagett Amazon) explains why the era of more is over.

  7. onlooker on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 12:41 pm 

    Once again another article touting tech solutions albeit natural ones. Always trying to avoid the inescapable fact that our population needs to be reduced and our ways of living need to be more modest and Earth friendly. Oh and Derhund, I have also heard that Pedophilia is common especially in higher up circles around the planet. Does Pizzagate ring a bell?

  8. Sissyfuss on Sat, 24th Mar 2018 6:06 pm 

    Is extinction considered a nature-based solution?

  9. dave thompson on Sun, 25th Mar 2018 6:31 am 

    “Is extinction considered a nature-based solution?”

    If not nature then what? God based?

  10. Davy on Sun, 25th Mar 2018 7:10 am 

    Extinction and evolution are a nature based process. The sooner we recognize this the sooner we can self-reflect and recognize we are an extinction species. That said we can try to be less extinction and more evolution. Self honesty is the prerequisite for spiritual advancement.

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