Contributions of Biodiversity to SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Healthy ecosystems underpin the delivery of water supplies, water quality, and guard against water-related hazards and disasters. For example, wetlands play an appreciable role in surface, sub-surface and ground water storage, as well as preserving dry season river flows and reducing the risk of flooding in wet seasons. They also serve to retain, process and dilute wastes and other pollutants, helping maintain water quality.

Meanwhile, vegetation such as grasslands and forests offers a critical source of watershed protection in upland areas. They provide land cover which helps to slow the rate of runoff, guards against erosion, even out seasonal peaks and troughs in water flow, and minimise silt and sediment loads carried downstream.

Ecosystem based approaches to agriculture limit nutrient losses to surface water and groundwater, and the subsequent polluting effects of eutrophication, algal blooms, red tides and fish kills, and contamination of drinking water sources. They also promote practices that are efficient in water use, enhance soil water retention, and value locally adapted crops that require less water.

These services typically have extremely high economic value for downstream water users, and help prolong the lifetime and productivity of water infrastructure such as reservoirs, supply facilities, irrigation schemes and hydropower dams. In addition, managing ecosystems to maintain these services is a more cost-effective option than employing artificial technologies or taking remedial measures when these essential functions have been lost or disrupted due to environmental degradation. For example, maintaining wetlands for flood control and mitigation are usually substantially cheaper than rebuilding roads, bridges and buildings that get washed away in flooding events. Conserving an upstream forest typically costs far less than investing in new water filtration and treatment plants downstream, or implementing expensive de-siltation activities in dams and reservoirs.

Related SDG 6 Targets

  • SDG Target 6.3: By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally (related to Aichi Targets: 8)
  • SDG Target 6.4: By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity (related Aichi Targets: 11, 14, 15)
  • SDG Target 6.5: by 2030, implement drinking water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate (related Aichi Targets: 11, 14, 15)
  • SDG Target 6.6: By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes (related Aichi Targets: 11, 14, 15)

Relevant Aichi Biodiversity Targets
Pollution reduced
Protected areas
Ecosystem services
Ecosystem restoration and resilience

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