Worldwatch Paper #170: Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems

July 2005
Sandra Postel
ISBN: 1-878071-76-9
78 pages

By taking advantage of the work that healthy watersheds and freshwater ecosystems perform naturally, cities and rural areas can purify drinking water, alleviate hunger, mitigate flood damages, and meet other societal goals at a fraction of the cost of conventional technological alternatives.

But because commercial markets rarely put a price on these "ecosystem services," and because governments around the world are failing to protect them, they are being lost at a rapid rate. Global warming is the wild card that could further exacerbate the impacts of human activities on the natural systems that safeguard our water supply—impacts that include falling water tables, shrinking wetlands, vanishing species, and a decrease in both the quality and quantity of available freshwater.