A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy

By Juliet Christian-Smith; Peter H. Gleick et al. | Go to book overview

6
PROTECTING FRESHWATER ECOSYSTEMS

Juliet Christian-Smith and Lucy Allen


Introduction

In the 20th century, national water policies focused on building infrastructure and institutions for the purposes of satisfying human demands for water, controlling the vagaries of natural climatic variability including floods and droughts, generating power, providing recreational opportunities, and more. Ecosystem values and conditions were rarely considered or made an explicit part of water-policy decisions. The consequence has been serious degradation and destruction of the nation’s ecological heritage.

Freshwater ecosystems—including floodplains, wetlands, rivers, and estuaries, as well as the flora and fauna they sustain—provide a wide range of services of tremendous value to society, from mitigating floods, to recharging aquifers, to enhancing water quality (Costanza et al. 1997). Despite their economic and inherent values, human activities are causing the rapid decline of freshwater ecosystems. According to one study, freshwater species in North America are becoming extinct at rates similar to those in tropical rainforests, which are widely regarded as among the most stressed ecosystems on earth (Ricciardi and Rasmussen 1999).

The soft path approach to water management acknowledges the vital role of healthy ecosystems in water management and accordingly recognizes them as legitimate users of water resources (Brooks, Brandes, and Gurman 2009). This book envisions a national water strategy for the 21st century that incorporates the soft path approach, including the maintenance and restoration of ecosystems as management objectives. This strategy must explicitly include improving our understanding of

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A Twenty-First Century US Water Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • List of Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction- the Soft Path for Water xv
  • 1 - The Water of the United States 3
  • 2 - Legal and Institutional Framework of Water Management 23
  • 3 - Water and Environmental Justice 52
  • 4 - Tribes and Water 90
  • 5 - Water Quality 109
  • 6 - Protecting Freshwater Ecosystems 142
  • 7 - Municipal Water Use 167
  • 8 - Water and Agriculture 195
  • 9 - Water and Energy 221
  • 10 - Water and Climate 244
  • 11 - United States International Water Policy 263
  • 12 - Conclusions and Recommendations 288
  • Appendix - Key Pieces of Federal Legislation 305
  • Notes 313
  • About the Authors 317
  • Index 319
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