Water security is an essential concept defined as ´the ability of humankind to protect sustainable access to water, ensuring well-being, livelihoods and socio-economic development´. This concept includes taking measures to protect the ecosystems that provide this vital resource and to secure the ecosystem services linked to water. It is not only about ensuring that there is enough water, but also that it meets high quality standards and meets the agricultural, industrial, energy and domestic needs of a specific region.

The preservation of environmental systems, which constitute the natural sources of water and related ecosystem services becomes essential.

The Global Water Partnership1, an international network dedicated to sustainable water management, describes a water secure world as one in which every person has access to safe and affordablewater for a healthy and productive life, and in which communities are protected from floods, droughts and water-borne diseases. It adds that water security promotes environmental protection and social justice in the face of conflicts over shared resources.

Source: Rául Sánchez Francés. CARTIF

The UN has sounded the alarm about the water deficit that is expected in the future. According to its estimates, by 2030 the Earth could face a 40% deficit if current consumption patterns are not changed. Population growth, especially in urban areas, has increased pollution that affects water quality, not only through air pollution, but also through changes in land use. Water consumption has doubled in the last half century, and it is estimated that by 2025 at least two-thirds of the world´s population will live in areas of high water stress.

Climate change also poses an additional risk to water security, reducing water availability and making it increasingly unpredictable in many parts of the world, leading to major supply problems. In addition, extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, affect rich and poor alike, disrupting traditional livelihoods and production patterns.

In Castilla y León, water security is already a critical issue, given the importance of our agricultural sector in food production, twhich is highly dependent on a constatn supply of water. The region´s agriculture relies heavily on the production of cereals, wine and horticultural products, and is being affected by climate variability, including prolonged droughts that deplete water resources and jeopardise the sustainability of crops. Similarly, the region is experiencing increasing water stress aggravated by climate change, which threatens food production and affects the balance of the rural economy, thus increasing the already pressing problem of depopulation of our villages or rural environments.

Farmers face an increasingly difficult challenge: maintaining productivity in a context of limited water resources. Many have had to adapt their techniques, investing in efficient irrigation and crop diversification to mitigate the impact of droughts. However, these solutions come at a high cost that not everyone can afford, highlighting the urgency of finding more inclusive approaches. This is where Nature based Solutions (NbS) come in, offering a sustainable alternative to follow.

Source: CARTIF

Nature-Based Solutions are vital to address these problems in a creative way and at the same time provide additional sustainability benefits. UNESCO, in its World Water Development Report, argues that NbS can improve water supply and quality while mitigating the impact of natural disasters. A clear example is restored watersheds and wetlands, which act as natural filters for water purification. By mimicking natural processes, NbS improve water availability and quality and reduce water-related risks.

It is essential to highlight the importance of conserving wetlands and restoring river basins the region, as they act as natural filters, improving water quality and regulating flow in times of drought. Techniques such as agro-forestry and crop rotation can also be explored to maintain soil fertility and reduce dependence on intensive irrigation systems. These practices mimic natural processes and help maintain a balance between production and conservation.

The Global Water Security Index (GWSI)3 , which integrates criteria such as water availability, accesibility, security and quality, standardises water vulnerabilities and risks, helping to identify priority areas where action is urgently needed. This index also highlights the need for innovative strategies that combine green infrastructure with traditional solutions, maximising value for society.

Soluciones basadas en la naturaleza en Sassari
Proyecto NATMED. FIA system (Forested Infiltration Area). SbN implemented in Sassari (Cerdeña – Italia).  Source: Raúl Sánchez Francés.

It is also important to highlight the relevance and scope of water security in urban settings, where it encompasses five dimensions: environmental, domestic, economic, urban and resilience to natural disasters. All these aspects make the lack of water security one of the greatest risks to global prosperity and underline the urgent need to take care of the natural resource “water”. This implies sustainbale management, responsible consumption, combating degradation and reuse.

In the Natural Resources and Climate Area of CARTIF, we develop diverse projects related to sustainable water management as basis for water insurance, both for human consumption and for agricultural consumption.

We coordinate the PRIMA NAT-med project, in which we aim to develop, implement and validate a set of Nature-based Solutions, combined in Full Water Cycle-NbS (FWC-Nbs), integrated in existing water infrastructures (grey or natural) and based on specific phases of the water cycle, to optimise the provision of water-related ecosystem services (quality and quantity) and water-dependent ecosystem services (social, economic and environmental aspects), empowering stakeholders and local communities in the Mediterranean region. NATMed will also demonstrate the effect of different SbN-CCA in five case studies located in Spain, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Algeria.

Similarly, through our CIRAWA project coordination work, we work in 8 regions in Cape Verde, Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia to improve agriculture by developing new agroecology-based practices that build on existing local and scientific knowledge to help create more resilient food supply chains in West Africa, and where sustainable water resource management is essential.

Puntos de acceso al agua para agricultura. Proyecto CIRAWA
CIRAWA project. Access points to water for agriculture at the Maio Island (Cape Verde). Source: Raúl Sánchez Francés.

From the Natural Resources Area of CARTIF, like many other ´guardians of water`, we work to improve water security, using Nature-based Solutions, as part of our vital commitment to the future of the planet. Only through intelligent and collaborative management can we build a world in which every person has access to water and can live with dignity, ensuring that future generations will also enjoy it.

1 https://www.gwp.org/

2 WWAP & ONU-Agua. (2018). Informe Mundial de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Desarrollo de los Recursos Hídricos 2018: Soluciones basadas en la naturaleza para la gestión del agua. París: UNESCO.

3 Measuring global water security towards sustainable development goals

Raúl Sánchez
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