Environmental flows are essential for freshwater ecosystem health and human well-being - the Brisbane Declaration

The declaration calls upon restorating and maintaining environmental flows to protect the rivers globally

This declaration presents summary findings and a global action agenda that address the urgent need to protect rivers globally, as proclaimed at the 10th International River symposium and International Environmental Flows Conference, held in Brisbane, Australia, on 3-6 September 2007.  The conference was attended by more than 800 scientists, economists, engineers, resource managers and policy makers from 57 nations.

The declaration calls upon all governments, development banks, donors, river basin organizations, water and energy associations, multilateral and bilateral institutions, community-based organizations, research institutions, and the private sector across the globe to commit to the following actions for restoring and maintaining environmental flows.

The key findings include –

  • Freshwater ecosystems are the foundation of our social, cultural, and economic well-being. 
  • Freshwater ecosystems are seriously impaired and continue to degrade at alarming rates.
  • Water flowing to the sea is not wasted.  Fresh water that flows into the ocean nourishes estuaries, which provide abundant food supplies, buffer infrastructure against storms and tidal surges, and dilute and evacuate pollutants.
  • Flow alteration imperils freshwater and estuarine ecosystems. 
  • Environmental flow management provides the water flows needed to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems in coexistence with agriculture, industry, and cities. 
  • Climate change intensifies the urgency.  Sound environmental flow management hedges against potentially serious and irreversible damage to freshwater ecosystems from climate change impacts by maintaining and enhancing ecosystem resiliency.
  • Progress has been made, but much more attention is needed.  Several governments have instituted innovative water policies that explicitly recognize environmental flow needs. 
  • Environmental flow needs are increasingly being considered in water infrastructure development and are being maintained or restored through releases of water from dams, limitations on groundwater and surface-water diversions, and management of land-use practices.  Even so, the progress made to date falls far short of the global effort needed to sustain healthy freshwater ecosystems and the economies, livelihoods, and human well-being that depend upon them. 

Click here to read the Brisbane Declaration


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