Water, Thirsty Potatoes & The Environment

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One of the main targets of the UN sustainable goal 6 is to protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes. 

Water-related ecosystems provide essential social and economic benefits and services that support societies, such as water for drinking, sanitation and agriculture. In addition, all living organisms need water to survive, which is why it is so important to protect and preserve our freshwater sources. 

How Do We Use Water in Agriculture?  

According to the UN, approximately 70% of all water taken from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation. Irrigation is the agricultural process of applying controlled amounts of water to land in the production of crops. It is also applied to grow landscape plants and lawns, where it may be known as watering, which is not limited to homes. Parks, cemeteries, plant nurseries, schools, golf courses, etc., all need watering too. 

Irrigation in agriculture also includes water used for: 

  • Pre-irrigation to moist soil before cultivation 
  • Frost protection by using sprinklers. A moist ground stays warmer than dry ground. 
  • Field or land preparation is a process that involves several activities, including plowing, breaking and adding soil nutrients. The purpose of these activities is to improve crop/plant growth and development.
  • Crop cooling, adding small amounts of water, lowering crop temperature and raising the air's humidity as the water evaporates. 
  • Chemical application - also known as chemigation - consists of applying agricultural chemicals through the irrigation system and the irrigation water. Thus, water is a fundamental element in agriculture. 

Check out the following video to learn about types of irrigation 

Now that we know how much water is needed in agriculture and how agriculture is fundamental for all societies, let's think about the primary target: protect and restore. How do we do that? 

How Do We Protect and Restore an Ecosystem?

One way governments can ensure the preservation of particular ecosystems is by declaring these areas as 'protected'. Establishing protected areas through legal measures can serve to protect and preserve endangered ecosystems. For example, in 1998, 6,264 km2 of the Danube Delta (Romania and Ukraine) were protected as part of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere program. Furthermore, the famous Australian Great Barrier Reef became a Marine Protected Area by becoming a national park. Since 25 November 2009, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was recognized as a matter of national environmental significance, and it is now protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). 

What is a Protected Area?

A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. (IUCN Definition 2008)

Protected areas are crucial to ensure the conservation of nature and the services it provides us. 

Another way to ensure the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems is by promoting land purchase and the establishment of conservation easements (i.e., the purchase of development rights). Public and private purchases of ecologically valuable can help reduce nutrient pollution by protecting ecosystems that capture and cycle nutrients. For example, the Worcester Land Protection Partnership between the city of Worcester (Massachusetts, U.S.) and the Trust for Public Land aims to improve and maintain water quality in the adjacent rivers and reservoirs.

Real Action - How to Get Involved 

The Water Action Hub is a worldwide online collaboration and knowledge bank platform for water sustainability and climate resilience, developed by the CEO Water Mandate.

The Hub helps companies and other organizations address water conservation and protection projects and campaigns by: 

  1. Raising awareness of sustainability projects 
  2. Allowing organizations to propose new projects 
  3. Facilitating collective action

The water action hub is the perfect place to find local projects and get involved! They have an extensive directory of global campaigns and organizations serving as the ideal bridge between communities and enterprises. For example, The Wild Mile project, based in the United States, is a project that looks into studying the river basin conditions and creating long-term partnership(s) to raise awareness of challenges among water users in the area. 

"Our park boasts a series of floating gardens & trees, habitat installations, access points, and educational initiatives with the aim of creating a robust wildlife sanctuary in the heart of Chicago." - The Wild Mile. 

So far, the project has installed 11,000 square feet of gardens and a mussel habitat and bat traps. To find out more, or to visit the garden project, check out their website www.urbanriv.org.


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Thinking Cap

Like the Wild Mile, so many other local and global projects look at restoring and protecting water-based ecosystems. Use these as inspiration to create your own. 

Create a campaign to protect and restore your local river/pond/beach/lake. First, find out what type of flora and fauna live there. Then, brainstorm with friends or family; think about the messaging, the feel, and the look of your campaign. How can you motivate people to protect the area? Can you organize a cleaning day to clear the area of any trash? If you live in a farming zone, are there ways you can improve irrigation/water use?

Let us know how we can help!