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Forests and wetlands: suppliers of clean water and first line of defence against floods

Published:14 December 2004

Geneva

Forests and wetlands can replace expensive engineering structures for flood control and waste-water treatment. Forests and wetlands store water and reduce erosion. They mitigate floods, and retain pollutants and excess nutrients. The Seminar on the role of ecosystems as water suppliers takes place in Geneva this week (13-14 December) and will discuss the role of forests and wetlands in the water cycle, and innovative approaches to protecting and rehabilitating them.

The basic services that forests provide (production of pure water, flood control and recreation) are worth billions. For instance, the value of the water storage function of China’s forests is thought to be three times the value of their wood. The economic value of the world’s wetlands is estimated at $70 billion per year.

Many cities in the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) are already using forests and wetlands to cut the cost of supplying clean water to their residents. New York, Istanbul, Stockholm and Basel are all taking advantage of the properties of the surrounding forests to save on water treatment.

It is estimated that New York’s approach costs up to $1.5 billion over 10 years, while building a waste-water treatment plant would cost at least four times as much, excluding operating costs. Switzerland saves roughly $64 million a year by using water from forested watersheds that needs no treatment.


For more information about the Seminar, please contact:

Rainer Enderlein

Environment and Human Settlements Division

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Palais des Nations – Office 313

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: +41(0)22 917 23 73

Fax: +41(0)22 917 01 07

E-mail: rainer.enderlein@unece.org

Ref: ECE/ENV/04/P22


United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05


© United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe – 2013