Discussions of water sustainability offer most promise when they take place with an understanding of major driving forces like population, income, land use, climate change, and energy use. To help it navigate within such a context, SWRR identified a set of four sustainability principles for water resources management:
- The value and limits of water. Water supports all life and provides great value. While water is abundant, people need to understand and appreciate that it is limited in many regions, that there are environmental and economic costs of depleting or damaging water resources, and that unsustainable water and land use practices pose serious risks to people and ecosystems. The consumption of renewable natural resources is sustainable if it does not exceed the rate of long term renewal and does not impair the health and productivity of ecosystems, communities or the economy.
- Shared responsibility. Water does not respect political boundaries. Sustainable management of water requires consideration of the needs of people and ecosystems up- and down-stream and throughout the hydrologic cycle, and avoiding extreme situations that may deplete water in some regions to provide supplies elsewhere.
- Equitable access. Sustainability suggests fair and equitable access to water, water dependent resources, and related infrastructure. Equitable access requires continuous monitoring to detect and address problems as they occur, and means to correct the problems.
- Stewardship. Meeting today’s water needs sustainably challenges us to continually address the implications of our water resources decisions on future generations and the ecosystems upon which they will rely. We must be prepared to correct policies and decisions if they create adverse unintended consequences.
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