It is undebatable that one of the most important natural resources are represented by freshwater systems. The preservation of the natural function of ground and surface water is both a challenge and an obligation. However, the question often arises as to how far sustainable resource use and conservation can be achieved in the context of SDGs and the global need for growth. Unfortunately, the achievement of “real” sustainable development is still hampered by numerous compromises in favour of conservative economic growth over social well-being and environmental sustainability. The debate on social well-being and ecological viability, including climate protection, forms the concept of the “inclusive development” within the SDGs´ framework. The current discussion supports the thesis that without a commitment to inclusive development, the SDGs run the risk of not directing the substantive transformation needed to achieve strong sustainable development at states and global level.
Continued economic growth, which is further bound to the “business-as-usual” paradigm, will fail to achieve sustainable development. As long as this paradigm does not undergo a paradigm shift, an inclusive development approach is necessary to balance or minimize the dominance of the conservative business-as-usual growth approach.
Over time, the global community has learned that ecological issues are not so much one-off, isolated incidents as they are intertwined with development and growth issues. The insight that resource exploitation is limited has transferred our awareness and action, at least to some extent, to a new qualitative level where ecological and economic opportunities are evaluated in the same way, thus paving the way for the achievement of sustainability goals.