Water and nature
Water is essential for life. It is part of a dynamic cycle that helped to create life on the planet. Humans, animals and plants need
water to survive. Ecosystems need water to maintain their ecological functions and environmental services. But for humankind water
also represents an important resource for many social, productive and recreational activities.
Among its many qualities, water has become a fundamental component for the development of humankind, as a basic element in productive
activities such as agriculture and the industry, as well as tourism and recreational activities. It is enough to throw a quick glance
to the past to prove that many of the great civilizations flourished at the margins of important water sources. The link between the
environment, natural resources and human beings was forged thousands of years ago and today, continues to be an undeniable but many
times unacknowledged truth.
When speaking of water, or any other subject, it helps to mention a few facts to see the big picture clearly. In the case of water for
example, its quantity in our planet has not varied in millions of years. Then, why is there so much fuss about there being less water?
Because the issue is not the quantity of water, but its availability. In this case, availability is conditioned to factors such as
distribution and adequate access in quantity and quality. Real statistic fact: of all existing water in the World, only 3% is
freshwater. But of this 3%, the most part is inaccessible to humans because it is found either frozen in the Polar Regions or at
unreachable depths. The remaining water is distributed in rivers, lakes and aquifers throughout the World. This is precisely the water
that we are losing, in the sense that its availability in quantity and quality is being affected.
The majority of causes are directly related to human actions. The growing pollution of lakes, rivers and aquifers limit availability
in quality and quantity of water. Deforestation is another serious issue for it represents the loss of specialized ecosystems in the
capture and infiltration of water to underground sources. The lack of vegetable coverage favors soil erosion, depositing sediments in
rivers and lakes that cause loss of water quality and provoke floods that affect human settlements and productive activities.
Population growth also reduces water availability, for the same amount of water must be distributed among a larger population
effectively reducing the amount of water received.
Climate change represents is one of the greatest threats we face today. On the 2nd of February 2007, scientists from more than 60
countries indicated without a doubt that 90% of global warming was caused by humankind, specifically by the burning of fossil fuels.
The change in climatologic conditions has as a consequence the alteration of rainfall patterns producing longer draughts, more
intense rainstorms and in general, more extreme climate events. These changes affect the distribution of water which in turn affects
its availability and the balance of ecosystems. These last require water to maintain their ecological processes as well as the
environmental services they provide such as carbon dioxide sequestration, water infiltration, and the protection of biodiversity.
Other important benefits provided by ecosystems are food production, active ingredients for medicines and cosmetics, materials for
handcrafts and clothes fabrication, among others.
There are a series of important studies done by different organizations which highlight the link between forests and cities. A high
percentage of the water used in cities is in fact provided by forests. The industry and the agriculture also depend many times on
the water captured and filtered by forests. Forests are like sponges, they help collect water, to filter and to purify it,
eliminating pollutants, supplying aquifers and feeding superficial waters. It is no great casualty that some of the World’s largest
rivers have their origins in forests and jungles, such as the Amazon River, considered the largest river in the World and fed by
waters collected by the Amazon Rainforest.
The adequate use and conservation of water resources are central topics for environmental management. To achieve a sustainable use
of water, the three variables of the triangle of sustainability should always be taken into account: society, economy and the