Human alterations of Earth's fresh waterThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
One of the biggest challenges society faces in this new century is figuring out how to satisfy the water demands of 8 billion people while at the same time protecting the aquatic ecosystems and ecological services that humans and all species depend upon. Since 1950, water demands worldwide have more than tripled, while the scale of our dams and reservoirs, river diversions, and groundwater exploitation have fundamentally altered hydrological systems and the ecological services they perform. On top of all these stresses, we face the added complexity of global climate change. We are going to need a fundamentally different approach if we are going to have any hope of maintaining some degree of ecological health in the face of these rising demographic and economic pressures. This paper addresses some of the goals and key policy levers necessary for wetland ecosystem restoration and protection. This paper is a transcription of Sandra Postel’s plenary talk at the May 2000 Conference.