Title

Water resources management in a homogenizing world: Averting the growth and underinvestment trajectory

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2014

Abstract

©2014. American Geophysical Union. Biotic homogenization, a de facto symptom of a global biodiversity crisis, underscores the urgency of reforming water resources management to focus on the health and viability of ecosystems. Global population and economic growth, coupled with inadequate investment in maintenance of ecological systems, threaten to degrade environmental integrity and ecosystem services that support the global socioeconomic system, indicative of a system governed by the Growth and Underinvestment (G&U) archetype. Water resources management is linked to biotic homogenization and degradation of system integrity through alteration of water systems, ecosystem dynamics, and composition of the biota. Consistent with the G&U archetype, water resources planning primarily treats ecological considerations as exogenous constraints rather than integral, dynamic, and responsive parts of the system. It is essential that the ecological considerations be made objectives of water resources development plans to facilitate the analysis of feedbacks and potential trade-offs between socioeconomic gains and ecological losses. We call for expediting a shift to ecosystem-based management of water resources, which requires a better understanding of the dynamics and links between water resources management actions, ecological side-effects, and associated long-term ramifications for sustainability. To address existing knowledge gaps, models that include dynamics and estimated thresholds for regime shifts or ecosystem degradation need to be developed. Policy levers for implementation of ecosystem-based water resources management include shifting away from growth-oriented supply management, better demand management, increased public awareness, and institutional reform that promotes adaptive and transdisciplinary management approaches.

Publication Title

Water Resources Research

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