IWA Publishing is pleased to share the latest blog post from one of our Open Access Ambassadors!

Our OA Ambassadors raise awareness in their local communities about global OA movements as well as related opportunities through IWA Publishing. They are representatives of both the International Water Association and IWA Publishing and our joint goals to empower the next generation of water leaders and to shape the future of the water sector. These blog posts highlight their specialty and research focus, as well as emphasising the importance of Open Access publishing. 

This blog post comes from Kator Jethro Ifyalem, an MSc student from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Kator is a civil engineer committed to environmental sustainability. Connect with Kator on LinkedIn.

Many thanks to Kator for his contribution! 

Water resources around the world are facing numerous challenges in the 21st century, including population growth, urbanization, industrialization, and climate change. Rapid population growth and urbanization are increasing water demand, while industrialization is leading to the pollution of water sources. Climate change is exacerbating these challenges by causing changes in precipitation patterns, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events, which affect water availability and quality.

Climate change is also leading to changes in the hydrological cycle, which can affect water management practices. For example, some regions may experience frequent and intense droughts, while others may experience frequent and intense floods. This variability in water availability and quality can have significant impacts on human health and well-being, as well as on ecosystems and biodiversity.

Therefore, it is critical to manage water resources sustainably and equitably, considering the needs of both present and future generations. This requires a comprehensive approach that includes water conservation, water reuse, and water management practices that are adapted to local conditions and changing climate patterns.

Green infrastructure for water management can be an effective approach to address these challenges. By using natural systems and green spaces, green infrastructure can help to manage stormwater runoff, reduce pollution, enhance water quality, and increase water availability.

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure is a network of natural systems and green spaces, such as parks, forests, wetlands, and green roofs, that are designed to provide multiple environmental and social benefits. It is often used to manage stormwater runoff, improve water quality, reduce urban heat island effects, enhance biodiversity, and promote social and economic well-being.

Green infrastructure can be used for water management in a variety of ways. For instance, green roofs and vegetated swales capture and absorb stormwater runoff, reducing the amount of water that enters the municipal sewer system. They are also used to filter pollutants from stormwater runoff, improving the quality of water that enters streams, rivers, and lakes. Wetlands and riparian buffers can be used to absorb excess nutrients and pollutants from agricultural runoff, reducing the negative impacts of nutrient pollution on water quality and aquatic ecosystems.

Green infrastructure has several advantages compared to traditional "grey" infrastructure, such as concrete and steel pipes and pumps. They are often more cost-effective than traditional infrastructure because they use natural systems to provide multiple benefits. For example, green infrastructure can reduce the need for expensive stormwater management systems, such as large detention basins and underground storage tanks. Green infrastructures are often more resilient to climate change because they can adapt to changing conditions. For instance, they can help to reduce the impact of flooding by absorbing and storing water, which can reduce the risk of property damage and the need for costly repairs. Finally, they can provide additional benefits beyond water management, such as enhancing biodiversity and improving air quality, which can improve overall community health and well-being.

Advancing Sustainability through Green Infrastructure for Water Management

Green infrastructure can promote sustainability by reducing water pollution, improving water quality, and conserving water resources. Green infrastructure can help to reduce water pollution by capturing and filtering stormwater runoff, which often carries pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, and chemicals into streams and rivers. By reducing water pollution, green infrastructure can improve water quality, which is important for human health and ecosystem health. Moreover, green infrastructure can conserve water resources by capturing and storing stormwater runoff, which can be used for non-potable uses such as irrigation, landscaping, and industrial uses.

Green infrastructure can also contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves. Green infrastructure can help to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly through carbon sequestration in vegetation and soils. Green infrastructure can also help to adapt to climate change by reducing the impacts of extreme weather events, such as flooding, by providing a natural and sustainable way to manage stormwater runoff.

In addition, green infrastructure can promote sustainability by providing multiple co-benefits for communities. By reducing air pollution, conserving water resources, and providing green space, they can improve community health and well-being while also promoting ecological health and sustainability.

However, there are also challenges to advancing these systems. The challenges include funding and financing, regulatory barriers, technical capacity, and public awareness and engagement. Addressing these challenges will require collaboration and coordination among stakeholders, including government agencies, private sector organizations, community groups, and academic institutions.

Therefore, we call on policymakers, practitioners, and communities to prioritize green infrastructure for water management, collaborate and coordinate efforts to overcome the challenges and promote opportunities for advancing green infrastructure. We can create more equitable, sustainable, and resilient communities for all by working together.

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