Blog Post


This year’s theme – Nature for Water – explores how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century.

Environmental damage, together with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we see around the world. Floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes.

When we neglect our ecosystems, we make it harder to provide everyone with the water we need to survive and thrive.

Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and livelihoods.

World Water Development Report 2018

Nature-based Solutions for Water

The global demand for water has been increasing at a rate of about 1% per year over the past decades as a function of population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns, among other factors, and it will continue to grow significantly over the foreseeable future. Industrial and domestic demand for water will increase much faster than agricultural demand, although agriculture will remain the largest user overall. The vast majority of the growth in demand for water will occur in countries with developing or emerging economies.
At the same time, the global water cycle is intensifying due to climate change, with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier. Other global changes (e.g., urbanisation, de‐forestation, intensification of agriculture) add to these challenges.

The United Nations World Water Development Report, Nature-based Solutions for Water, launched 19 March 2018 during the 8th World Water Forum, and in conjunction to the World Water Day, demonstrates how nature‐based solutions (NBS) offer a vital means of moving beyond business‐as‐usual to address many of the world’s water challenges while simultaneously delivering additional benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development.

NBS use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge), improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and reduce risks associated with water‐related disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs).
Currently, water management remains heavily dominated by traditional, human‐built (i.e. ‘grey’) infrastructure and the enormous potential for NBS remains under‐utilized. NBS include green infrastructure that can substitute, augment or work in parallel with grey infrastructure in a cost‐effective manner. The goal is to find the most appropriate blend of green and grey investments to maximize benefits and system efficiency while minimizing costs and trade‐offs.

Read more / Download the report here.

UN Chronicle – The Quest for Water

“The Quest for Water” focuses on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water for all. The articles explore important issues such as ecosystems in the global water cycle, the threat that climate change poses to water availability, and the role of gender and social inclusion in achieving the water-related goals and targets. This issue of the digital magazine of the UN system “buoys” the launch of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018-2028.

Read more here.

Multifunctional Wetlands: Pollution Abatement and other Ecological Services from Natural and Constructed Wetlands

This book describes how natural or constructed wetlands can be used to reduce pollution of freshwater and coastal ecosystems, while still preserving their biodiversity and ecological functions. Through a series of case histories described in 10 chapters in the monograph, the readers will gain an understanding of the opportunities, as well as the challenges associated with reducing point and non-point source pollution using natural, restored or constructed wetlands. The target audience will be water practitioners involved in projects utilizing integrated watershed management approaches to pollution abatement, as well as researchers who are designing projects focused on this topic.

Read the story featured on World Water Day website here.

Time to Resolve a Cursed Old Water Problem

“You cannot manage what you do not measure” is a long-familiar saying to many, nowhere more so than in professional water circles at almost every level.

Just as you cannot manage your bank account without knowing how much money you have, it is all but impossible to make informed water management decisions without reliable, sufficient, and freely available water data. Obtaining such data, however (or accessing data from other nations — some of which see security risks in sharing), has always proven difficult.

Knowing the variability of water flows in rivers, for example, requires measurements made over time at many different locations.

Surprisingly, despite its obvious importance and value, river flow data collection has been declining for decades now, with literally thousands of gauging stations in many countries, including large ones like USA, Canada, Russia, and Australia — closed in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Read more here.

Water Action Decade

The President of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, identified sustainable development as a priority. Therefore, on World Water Day, 22 March 2018, he will launch the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028 aiming to further improve cooperation, partnership and capacity development in response to the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Clean, accessible water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, and it is indispensable for human development, health and well-being.

There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. But water-related challenges, including limited access to safe water and sanitation, increasing pressure on water resources and ecosystems, and an exacerbated risk of droughts and floods, remain high on the global agenda.

Recent milestone agreements, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and the Paris Agreement, have placed water at their heart. Guaranteeing sustainable water management is a vital element to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and other relevant goals in the social, environmental and economic fields.

To implement these water-related goals and targets, and building on the achievements of the previous “Water for Life” Decade 2005-2015, the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028 aims to create a solid platform to advance cooperation and partnerships at all levels, and put a greater focus on the integrated management of water resources.

The Decade will contribute to the achievement of these goals by facilitating the sharing of good practices and providing a platform for advocacy, networking and partnership-building.

Water Action Decade website
Water Action Decade Launch and Programme