Do nature-based solutions allow for sustainable water management? | DAAD Climate Lecture Series
5 min.

Continuing the Lecture Series organised by the DAAD Global Climate Centres of which TRAJECTS is a part, on 3 June, Dr. Tamara Avellan, a specialist in participatory water resource management, shared her knowledge on the relationship between nature-based solutions and sustainability, with a special focus on sustainable water management. Dr. Avellan structured her talk in three parts: sustainable water management, nature-based solutions (particularly constructed wetlands), and sustainability assessments.

Dr. Avellan highlighted the importance of sustainability, as defined by the Brundtland Commission, which seeks to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations. She underlined the interdependence of economic, social, and environmental aspects to achieve sustainable development, and presented the water-energy-food ‘Nexus’ approach as a comprehensive strategy to address global and social pressures.

She also addressed the challenges of wastewater management, noting that current treatments are energy-intensive and that we need to consider more sustainable alternatives. She also emphasized the need for a systemic change in our view and treatment of wastewater to ensure long-term water security.

On nature-based solutions, Avellan mentioned definitions from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the European Commission, which highlight economic, social and environmental benefits. Examples include ecosystem restoration and protection of environmental systems. She detailed her research on constructed wetlands, which are man-made treatment systems using natural processes to improve water quality. These wetlands can contribute significantly to clean water by managing nutrients and organic matter through diverse microbial communities.

Avellan discussed how constructed wetlands have the potential to be more sustainable and energy efficient than traditional systems. She also explored the energy and irrigation potential of these plants, and the challenges of implementing them in communities, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Constructed wetlands could reduce the need for fuelwood and provide water for irrigation, which could help alleviate hunger.

One of the approaches proposed by Dr Avellan is the co-production of knowledge through participatory processes, involving scientists and stakeholders to generate viable and effective solutions. This method, although challenging, has proven to be effective in projects in Mexico and Guatemala, facilitating better decision-making through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration.

Dr. Avellan concluded her presentation, by stressing the importance of social innovation and connecting information holders with decision-makers, using approaches such as the Delphi method to align common visions and goals. She advocates for a change of perspective in water treatment, highlighting the need to integrate scientific and practical knowledge to develop more sustainable and efficient treatment systems.

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