Reflections on Balancing Green & Grey: “The smart thing is to work with nature and learn as much as we can from it,” observed Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute
Note to Reader:
The theme for World Water Say 2018 is: World looks to nature-based solutions for urgent water challenges. The following is an opinion piece to mark the day.
The Answer is in Nature
“Once on the ground, the fate of rainwater is largely determined by human activities, culture and infrastructure. Who gets how much water, and of what quality, often depends as much on human laws as it depends on the laws of nature,” wrote Torgny Holmgren in an opinion piece published in conjunction with World Water Day 2018.
“And now we are supposed to look back at nature for answers? It might seem contradictory, but there are two things to keep in mind. The first is that, in this era of ‘alternative truths’, nature is a fact. It doesn’t budge, scare or care. The second thing to remember is that nature’s solutions are tried and tested over thousands of years.”
Smart Combinations of Green and Grey
“We need both green or grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best,” continues Torgny Holmgren. “To make sure that this deliberation takes place, we need governance systems that help us by posing the right questions and by incentivizing behaviours that align individual desires with societal good.”
“Water management in the Anthropocene will require smart combinations of green and grey infrastructure. (Holmgren describes Anthropocene as an era in which our species has emerged as a major force of nature.)
The Crux of the Matter
“The wonderful diversity in ecosystems, in political preferences, and in the way water varies within and between years, makes it impossible to pinpoint a singleright balance between grey and green,” concludes Torgny Holmgren.
“Managing water will always be as much about politics as it is about physics.If we can manage it, the payback will come in the form of reliable, rich and resilient lives and livelihoods for all of us.”
To Learn More:
To read the complete opinion piece by Torgny Holmgren, download and read Balancing Green & Grey this World Water Day