2018 WWDR Discusses Nature-based Approaches to Water Management
UN Photo/Victoria Hazou
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The UN launched its annual World Water Development Report (WWDR) at the Eighth World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil.

The report titled, 'Nature-based Solutions for Water,' discusses the "opportunities to harness the natural processes that regulate various elements of the water cycle".

It draws attention to the ways that adoption of nature-based solutions can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs.

19 March 2018: The UN launched the 2018 edition of its annual World Water Development Report at the Eighth World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil. The report titled, ‘Nature-based Solutions for Water,’ discusses the “opportunities to harness the natural processes that regulate various elements of the water cycle.” The report draws attention to the ways that adopting nature-based solutions, or approaches that mimic or preserve ecosystem processes and functions can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – especially goals and targets for sustainable agriculture (SDG target 2.4), good health and well-being (SDG 3), water (SDG 6), industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and climate action (SDG 13).

The 156-page report cites many examples of successful uptake of nature-based solutions, such as China’s ‘Sponge City’ pilot programme, which aims to recycle 70% of rainwater in 16 cities by 2020. One research study cited in the report found that in 57 low-income countries, using water more efficiently, reducing pesticide use, and increasing ground cover increased crop yields by 79%. Despite the potential gains from nature-based solutions, the report notes that these approaches currently attract less than 1% of total investments into water resource management.

Despite the potential gains from nature-based solutions, these approaches attract less than 1% of total investments into water resource management.

In his foreword to the report, Gilbert F. Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water, emphasizes that adoption of nature-based solutions as a set of tools for holistic water resource management will enhance natural capital and support a resource-efficient circular economy. He also notes the report represents UN-Water’s most substantial contribution to the ‘Nature for Water’ campaign to be launched on World Water Day on 22 March.

To promote uptake of nature-based solutions, the report authors recommend measures for leveraging financing, including through full assessments of the co-benefits of nature-based solutions to biodiversity, the environment, and human health; creating an enabling regulatory and legal environment; improving cross-sectoral collaboration; and improving the knowledge base. They emphasize that global water demand is increasing by 1% yearly, with most demand in emerging economies, and that governments’ conventional focus on “grey” infrastructure such as reservoirs, canals and water treatment plants may neither be able to fully meet demand, nor provide necessary protection against pollution, soil erosion and biodiversity loss. They argue that existing grey infrastructure can be best complemented by “green” infrastructure for water recycling, groundwater recharge, and flood protection, but that there is currently a lack of guidance as to how grey and green infrastructure approaches can be integrated. Examples of green infrastructure include roof gardens, vegetated walls, artificial wetlands and water retention hollows. The authors caution that, while nature-based solutions are often billed as cost-effective, measures such as ecosystem restoration will require significant investment.

The World Water Development Report is a product of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Thirty-one UN agencies and UN-Water’s 39 international partners collaborated to produce the 2018 report. Besides the initial launch at the World Water Forum in Brazil, the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) will hold an information meeting for UN Member States at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, on 3 April. Over 30 regional launches of the 2018 report are planned. [UNESCO Press Release] [WWAP Press Release] [UN-Water Press Release and Report Link] [UN Press Release] [Publication: The United Nations World Water Development Report 2018: Nature-based Solutions for Water]


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