A stream runs through a forest in the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Image credit Willem Shepherd/Unsplash
Around the world, water infrastructure is beginning to fail. Reservoirs in Sao Paolo, Brazil, are nothing more than caked mud and another drought has been predicted. Three storms wrecked havoc in the United States (U.S.) in 2017, and chaos reigned in Bangkok, Thailand, as floods inundated the capital city.
And these are not single, unrelated events. Instead, they are increasing in severity and frequency, indicative of the changing climate and its terrible consequences.
When water infrastructure is mentioned, many immediately turn their thoughts to reservoirs, storage tanks, dams, piping, and even water treatment and desalination facilities. But natural infrastructure such as forests, wetlands, rivers and creeks are water infrastructure as well, filtering water, regulating flow, and offering a buffer against flooding. Integrating both natural and constructed forms of infrastructure, much like surrounding a water treatment facility with a forest, brings the various benefits of the two systems together. These hybrid systems are frequently more cost-effective, extend the lifespan of the built infrastructure, bring down carbon emissions, and protect habitats, among other benefits.
However, natural infrastructure is usually overlooked in favour of built infrastructure, with only a negligible percentage of investments in the global water infrastructure going into certified green projects.
But the mounting global water crisis is making the need for more future investments in water infrastructure clear. In this sense, projects that integrate natural infrastructure do last longer, are able to adapt to a changing climate, and also lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: World Resource Institute