The Multiple Challenges
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Christina Leb and Mara Tignino
Water is an omnipresent and finite resource; it cycles the planet changing between gaseous, liquid and solid state while its total quantity remains static throughout this journey. It is an essential resource for most organisms and life-forms, sustaining nature and proving vital to human life. Natural and human water demands are plentiful and any change in quantity, quality or temperature of water has an incidental effect on existing ecosystems. Humans have emerged as the species that most proactively interferes with the natural balance of aquatic ecosystems. Of the total amount of water available on Earth, the mere 1 percent that is usable by humans is amply used. Landscapes have been transformed, swamps drained and rivers regulated in order to fit the needs of human settlement. Canals and dykes have been created and reservoirs built in order to manage seasonal variations in water availability, to prevent floods and to adapt to droughts. Economic development and industrial production methods have transformed rivers temporarily into sewage channels before sewage treatment methods have been developed. Moreover, additional methods and techniques have been developed to use water ever more efficiently and to increase the amount of freshwater that is available for human use, such as through the desalination of ocean water.