Failure to include the goods and services provided by freshwater ecosystems in the design, development and operation of water infrastructure results in the degradation of these ecosystems. Human societies and governments must act with urgency to more comprehensively incorporate robust principles of ecosystem science into planning and management of freshwater resources if long-term sustainability of freshwater ecosystems is to be secured for the 21st century. Absent this, we can expect the state of freshwater ecosystems in 2050 to be massively diminished, perhaps irretrievably so, with unforeseen economic consequences to human populations that depend on the self-sustaining nature of functional freshwater systems. The foundations for integrating ecosystem sustainability principles into water resources planning, development and management already exist. We identify four major pathways forward for achieving a new water management paradigm that will be able to ensure the viability and robustness of freshwater ecosystems for posterity. However, implementing them will require substantial political will, in addition to sustained efforts from the technical community needed to devise water management strategies that meet both human and ecosystem needs.
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|Published - 2012