Managing water for life


Water is essential for life. In spite of the entire engineering infrastructure devoted to the treatment, regulation and beneficial uses of water, occasionally sufficient quantities and qualities of water become scarce. When this happens, just how do we decide how much less water to allocate to all of us and the activities we engage in to sustain and enhance our quality of life? This paper addresses some of the complexities of answering such a question, especially as society increasingly recognizes the need to provide flow regimes that will maintain healthy aquatic and floodplain ecosystems that also impact the economic, physical and even the spiritual quality of our lives. For we depend on these ecosystems to sustain our wellbeing. We are indeed a part of our ecosystems. We depend upon on aquatic ecosystems to moderate river flow qualities and quantities, reduce the extremes of floods and droughts, reduce erosion, detoxify and decompose waterborne wastes, generate and preserve flood plain soils and renew their fertility, regulate disease carrying organisms, and to enhance recreational benefits of river systems. This question of deciding just how much water to allocate to each water user and for the maintenance of viable aquatic ecosystems, especially when there is not enough, is a complex, and largely political, issue. This issue is likely to become even more complex and political and contentious in the future as populations grow and as water quantities and their qualities become even more variable and uncertain.

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Correspondence to Haifeng Jia.

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Loucks, D.P., Jia, H. Managing water for life. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng. 6, 255–264 (2012).

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  • water stress
  • aquatic ecosystems
  • sustainable water resource allocations
  • ecosystem water requirements