Researchers say allocation of freshwater is major societal challenge
How and where we allocate freshwater in an environment of increasing demand, and declining quality and availability is a major societal challenge.
The needs of local communities that are affected by dam construction and water abstraction are often similar to that of biodiversity. Yet, they are frequently superseded by the necessity to meet national demands for power, food and increasingly, mitigation of the hydrological effects of climate change.
A new study by Randall Brummett, Malcolm Beveridge and Ian Cowx titled “Functional aquatic ecosystems, inland fisheries and the Millennium Development Goals” explores the long-term ecosystem services of natural and perturbed fisheries and freshwater ecosystems in the context of modern society.
The study, which was recently release in the Fish and Fisheries journal, compares the different uses of riverine ecosystems to understand current and future patterns of exploitation. Based on this, the authors identify practical approaches to the way in which these resources are managed.
Sophisticated models of ecosystem function, used by scientists to determine environmental flows, are difficult to implement. Consequently, these attempts have generally failed to reduce rates of biodiversity and habitat loss. This in turn has caused the disenfranchisement of local communities that are affected by dam construction and water abstraction for industry and agriculture.
While having generally negative impacts on biodiversity and traditional lifestyles, creation of new infrastructure and active management generates national economic growth and much-needed employment.
There are no agreed standards upon which a fairer allocation of resources can be made, and thus a practical approach to the resolution of these conflicts is clearly needed.
Among other recommendations, the authors suggest that an intensification of usage in watersheds already allocated for human resource use can spare precious land needed for the biodiversity that will allow adaptation for the future.