Session 10 – “Nature Based Solutions for Water Resources Management”

Sustainable water security requires an integration of traditional engineering solutions with nature-based solutions, which in essence are services that conserved functioning of natural systems and can contribute toward solving challenges such as water insecurity, climate change impacts and human health issues related to environmental degradation. Nature-based solutions, often referred to as “green infrastructure”, address water-related problems at the landscape level, and can work alongside gray infrastructure, resulting in cost savings by avoidance of construction and operation of complex water management systems.

Keywords: Water Security, Nature Based Solutions, Green Infrastructure, Natural Capital, Water Funds, Climate Change, human health, Biodiversity,


Ensuring sustainability, human health and well-being, and security requires an integrated approach to governing and managing linked systems (1, 2). Water security is central to sustainable human development efforts: past, present and future. Many parts of the world have progressed towards ensuring access to clean and reliable water for both people and nature, but it cannot be taken for granted amidst evolving pressures.

Wealthier nations have been able to reduce their water security risks through gray infrastructure, but less developed nations, unable to afford expensive engineering solutions, remain at high risk (3). With a combination of growing water demand for agriculture, energy production, domestic and industrial use, and decreased water availability due to climate change, even developed countries may find that engineering solutions alone are insufficient (4).

Promising initial evidence suggests that nature-based solutions can help to reduce capital costs and in some cases be more cost-effective than gray infrastructure when addressing water resources management. For instance, studies of seven U.S. cities that maintain high-quality water due to protection or restoration of their source watersheds have found that the savings from avoided water treatment infrastructure costs could be up to US$ 6 billion (5).

Meeting the water security challenges for our growing world will require an integrated combination of nature-based and gray solutions to be more cost-effective and resilient. The most appropriate portfolio of strategies will vary depending on local conditions, but nature-based solutions should be considered alongside conventional gray infrastructure and natural assets should be valued as part of water security assets (6).

  1. Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., et al. (2015). Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet. Science 347: 1259855
  2. National Research Council of the National Academies. (2013). Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connection and Governance Linkages. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. USA.
  3. Vörösmarty, C.J., McIntyre, P.B., Gessner, M.O., et al. (2010). Global Threats to Human Water Security and River Biodiversity. Nature 467: 555-561.
  4. International Energy Agency (IEA). (2012). World Energy Outlook 2012. OECD/IEA, Paris, France.
  5. Gartner, T., Mulligan, J., Schmidt, R., and Gunn, J. (eds). (2013). Natural Infrastructure: Investing in Forested Landscapes for Source Water Protection in the United States. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C., USA.
  6. Abell, R., et al. (2017). Beyond the Source: The Environmental, Economic and Community Benefits of Source Water Protection. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA, USA.


  • Explore the value of nature based solutions for addressing water security challenges around the world
  • Present the benefits of the combined “green & grey” infrastructure approach in terms of water security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, human health and biodiversity protection
  • Discuss opportunities to mainstream investments in Nature Based Solutions for Water Resources Management

Session Plan

Moderation: Udo Nehren, Jorge Leon Sarmiento

Thematic Keynote

Fabrice Renaud | United Nations University (UNU); Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

Jorge Leon Sarmiento | The Nature Conservancy

Oral Presentations

Lamberty, Georg | Planungsbüro Zumbroich; TH Köln, Germany
Nature Based Solution for Near-Natural River Development: Application of the Spreading Effect Concept for the Program of Measures of Luxembourg in the Scope of European Water Framework Directive (154)

Schneider, Christof | CESR, University of Kassel, Germany
The Role of Cloud Forests As Water Storages in South America (314)

Poster Presentations

Huq, Nazmul | TH Köln (University of Applied Sciences), Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT)
Stakeholder’s Perceptions to Natural Flood Management (NFM): A Descriptive Assessment of Cumbria County in England (332)

Piyadasa, Ranjana | Colombo University, Sri Lanka
Sustainable Community Based Ecosystem Management for Climate Change Adaptation- Case Study in Sri Lanka (168)

Kung’u, James | Kenyatta University, Kenya
Potential of Nature Based Solutions to Water Scarcity in Africa Urban Areas: The Case of Nairobi City, Kenya (136)

Rahman, Mashrekur | Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, Bangladesh
Applicability of Permaculture in Water Stressed Semi-Arid Regions of Bangladesh (310)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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    Room: Peking 2

    Organized by The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy

Organizing Institution

This session is organized by: Jorge Leon, The Nature Conservancy
and Udo Nehren, ITT

Udo Nehren

Session Organizer

Lecturer and Senior Researcher Ecosystem Management | ITT, TH Köln (University of Applied Science)

Fabrice Renaud

Keynote Speaker

United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security | Head of the Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services Section

Jorge Leon Sarmiento

Keynote Speaker and Session Organizer

The Nature Conservancy | Latin America Water Funds Specialist

Event Timeslots (1)

column 4
Room: Peking 2

Organized by The Nature Conservancy