Wetlands for water and water for wetlands

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What is it about?

Wetlands play a critical role in the global water cycle. When rain falls over the land it may quickly evaporate, or seep into the ground and end up in groundwater. It may also remain as surface water, making its way eventually to the ocean via wetlands - our streams, lakes, and rivers. Along the way water may be used to sustain our domestic, agricultural and industrial needs. So wetlands are ‘water providers’, processing and purifying water. But wetlands are also ‘water users’: they need a certain amount of water input to keep them healthy if they are to continue to supply the water output - not to mention the many other services and products they provide to sustain human health.

What the Convention does

Managing freshwater for people and for wetlands is one of the Convention’s most significant challenges, particularly in the face of ever-increasing water demand and often diminishing water supply through over-abstraction. Ramsar provides tools that clearly recognize wetlands as natural water infrastructure: wetlands as providers of freshwater. To continue to function as providers, wetlands also need water and the Convention advocates planning and managing water and wetlands at the basin scale, with adequate water allocation to sustain wetlands and their services.

What needs to be done next?

Since water is often managed by other sectors, there is an ongoing challenge for wetland people to ensure that these managers and decision-makers are aware of the role of wetlands in providing water but also of their need for water in order to sustain this function.

Tools to expand on the message

1. IUCN publication on ‘Value: counting ecosystems as water infrastructure’

We would like to share with you an interesting publication highlighting the role of wetlands as natural water infrastructure that has been published by IUCN in 2004. You can download the full publication here: http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2004-046.pdf 

2. Case studies in wetland valuation

This publication, ‘Value: counting ecosystems as water infrastructure’, includes eight case studies in wetland valuation that are also accessible online (source: IUCN Water programme web site):


#1: Muthurajawela Marsh, Sri Lanka

[PDF Document 398KB]


#2: Barotse Floodplain, Zambia

[PDF Document 339KB]


#3: Ream National Park, Cambodia

[PDF Document 793KB]


#4: Waza Logone Floodplain, Cameroon

[PDF Document 441KB]


#5: Indus Delta, Pakistan

[PDF Document 476KB]


#6: Tana River, Kenya

[PDF Document 447KB]


#7: Nakivubo Swamp, Uganda

[PDF Document 390KB]


#8: Sekong Province, Lao PDR

[PDF Document 636KB]

3. On water security

In a message on water security, the Global Water Partnership explains the need to demonstrate why water, and better water resources management in particular, is important for development, based on the fact that only sound economic and social arguments influence decision-makers. Read more here:

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The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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