Resource: Our Land and Water: Negotiating a Fair Price for Water, Ecosystem Services and Human Well-being

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Cover: Our Land and WaterAuthor: Watershed Watch Salmon Society

Date: May 2014

Summary:Today’s Landscape — Undervaluing healthy ecosystems and healthy humans

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know our planet has entered a new epoch of human impacts (dubbed the Anthropocene). If you face the evidence, you might also feel a sense of urgency when it comes to current choices on resource use and conservation. Take water. Water rightfully resides near the top of most lists of precious resources. Water is life itself, whether we’re talking fish, fowl, flora, fauna—or us. Sadly, we too often ignore the enormous intrinsic value of water—to life, nature, culture—in our rush to commodify and profit from it. Whether we bottle and export it, divert it for power, or extract it or some other industrial gain, its short-term returns can be seductive. But also short-sighted and short-changing. Leaving sufficient water in the ground or in rivers and wetlands, while not as immediately profitable, often provides the most enduring return.

Our land and water deserve more from us. Isn’t it time to take a broader view of ecosystem and human well being? We might start simply by recognizing and bearing witness to the inordinate and irreplaceable value of water resources like wetlands, groundwater, and proper flows for fish. Wetlands purify water, provide habitat, and help regulate ecosystem health—so long as we treat them with some respect. Fish thrive at certain flows, and diminish at lesser ones.1 Groundwater sustains us and other life. We’re just now better appreciating the critical contributions cool groundwater provides to fish—especially in the face of climate change and competing water uses.

This report discusses various ways to increase recognition and consideration of ecosystem services in land use planning as well as a check-list for making better informed decisions.

Acknowledgements: This document was prepared by Watershed Watch Salmon Society with funding assistance from Mountain Equipment Co-op, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and First Nations Fisheries Council. Additional support for developing approaches to measuring and promoting ecosystem services and well-being was provided to Watershed Watch through The Bullitt Foundation. Sherry Boudreaux gave valuable input on an earlier draft of this document.