Water & Ecosystems Quality

Ecosystem structure and function is a pillar of water integrity. Knowledge of the interaction of the physical, chemical and biotic environment is essential to guide management and policies for the wise, and hence sustainable, use of surface inland waters and their connection with groundwater and coastal zones. The aquatic environment is at the heart of Integrated Water Resource Management and the governance it depends on.

Research programme

UNESCO-IHE's research lines on water and ecosystems quality focus on providing solutions to local and global pressures that mitigate impacts from the transformation of habitats, increased pollution and altered hydrology. The research goals are to support national and international strategies and policies related to sustainable water management, linking the biological, geophysical and governance dimensions in a framework of ecological integrity. The research links societal needs with understanding physical, chemical and ecological processes with aquatic ecosystems.

Ecosystems integrity

Sustainable Development is dependent on the services provided by ecosystems. Maintenance of ecosystems integrity is essential for sustainable use of the Earth’s resources and cultural heritage.  Yet, despite this common wisdom, goals of economic growth  often  degrade ecosystems, leading to diminished supply of water quality and quantity, enhanced risk of impacts from floods and droughts,  and loss of economic well being and cultural richness.

The importance of water integrity for human development is highlighted in The Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1, through the role of ecosystem integrity for the alleviation of extreme poverty, and MDG 7 on maintaining environmental sustainability, including efficient implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, maintaining knowledge of local communities, and prioritising integrated water and sanitation strategies. The forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals will likely place great emphasis on protection and maintenance of sustainable water use, reduction of pollution and ecosystem services.

Recent and ongoing research projects of the Water and Ecosystems Quality research theme focus on ecological and hydrological processes within natural wetlands and rivers, as well as large scale catchment management, interaction with livelihoods and links with water governance.

Related Chair Groups

Aquatic Ecosystems

Hydrology and Water Resources

Pollution Prevention & Resource Recovery

Water Governance

Related content

Wetlands ecology and management

A recently published Special issue of Wetlands Ecology and Management documents the trend of the diminishing papyrus wetlands in central and eastern Africa. The eight papers explore the complexity of papyrus wetland ecosystems and the multidisciplinary approach needed to support wetland governance and wise use. Read more here.