The Water Forum calls for holistic approach to landscape management

Written by An Fóram Uisce – the Water Forum

The Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed that the water cycle is more sensitive to global warming than expected, with a surge in droughts, floods and storms already at today’s one-degree temperature increase.

The first report that summarizes the role of water in climate mitigation was presented at COP27: The essential drop to reach Net-Zero: Unpacking Freshwater’s Role in Climate Change Mitigation. It describes the interconnection between climate, water, food, and energy, arguing that this calls for a new approach where these challenges must be addressed jointly.

The report states that it is critical to understand how land, freshwater and oceans are interconnected so that they are managed holistically, from source to sea. Since climate change is primarily felt in the form of too much, too little, or too polluted water, mitigation and adaptation requires investments in the management of water.

Citizens' Assembly

The Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity Loss recently recommended constitutional change to protect the rights of nature in Ireland. It asked for more time to consider recommendations on water, marine and coastal environments, peatlands, woodlands and hedgerows and urban and built environments. Across Europe, 60% of biodiversity loss is due to changes in land use, habitat loss and degradation; 20% due to exploitation and 20% from pollution, invasive species and climate change.

In the National Federation of Group Water Schemes' presentation to the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity, Barry Deane, mentioned the importance of supporting communities to assist in halting biodiversity loss and how group water schemes have multiple examples of communities delivering for water, biodiversity and climate.

As the report presented at COP27 stated, water management is an essential component of addressing the climate emergency and biodiversity crises. The Water Forum’s policy Framework for Integrated Land and Landscape Management (FILLM) calls for an approach that uses water catchments as the landscape unit for the management of ecosystems so that climate, water, air, soils and biodiversity can all be considered holistically. Working from catchment level to address land use issues, habitat degradation and loss would allow for the prioritisation of actions that will provide multiple benefits for water, biodiversity and climate.

To implement such an approach, agencies, specialists and communities need to work together to share the science, to identify and deliver solutions on the ground. The Water Forum has recommended that the next River Basin Management Plan includes structures and resources to support the development of public engagement approaches to deliver outcomes for water, biodiversity and climate.

For Science week 2022, the Water Forum created a podcast video on the impact of climate change on our water resources and the policy initiatives we need to address the crises. 

This article originally featured in the most recent edition of the Rural Water News magazine. To read the full edition and to sign up to our magazine mailing list, click here