Freshwater aquatic ecosystems make significant contributions towards the world’s biotic productivity. These ecosystems include wetlands located at riverbanks, lakeshores, ocean shorelines and any freshwater habitat, where the vegetation or soil is submerged for some time. River systems from their mouths to headwaters entail an integrated ecosystem. Water resource management focuses on efficient and prudent use of freshwater resources for purposes of navigation, energy production, irrigation, subsistence and flood control.
One of the freshwater’s resource management approaches for ecological sustainability is the watershed management approach. This approach benefits individuals, where the protection of watersheds improves environmental and livability conditions of an area. Additionally, it ensures the protection and preservation of ecosystems through inclusive participation of individuals and organizations that are most familiar with the watershed, its issues/challenges and potential solutions.
An inclusive approach to freshwater resource management is required to address various water quality challenges existing today, which threaten the integrity of ecosystems and freshwater habitats. Therefore, watershed based resource management and planning is a strategy that entails improving the effectiveness of protection, preservation and restoration of freshwater aquatic systems, including the protection of human health (Boon & Raven, 2011). This approach emphasizes on all aspects of ecosystem’s integrity, such as water quality including toxins, conventional pollutants, flow, temperature and circulation; habitat quality including, stream channel morphology and substrate composition, biodiversity and biological health entailing species diversity, abundance and range.
Freshwater ecosystems are prone to point and non-point source pollution. Non-point source pollution presents a significant threat to the health of watersheds; therefore, compromising the ecosystems in them. Non-point source pollution results from the accumulation of various minute actions, which when viewed independently may appear minor; however, the collective cumulative impacts are critical (Boon & Raven, 2011).
Best management practices and control initiatives vary in their effectiveness, depending on the defined pollutants in question, watershed characteristics and hydrology such as vegetation cover, soils, slope, nature and extent of human activities; water bodies and pollution sources (Moss, 2010). Significantly, the effectiveness of sustainable water resource management practices is dependent on the optimal application of management practice or control measures. Freshwater ecosystem’s pollutants result from disturbances or changes in land and human industrial activities such as agricultural, residential activities and waste disposal, forest activities and energy generation activities.
While lakes, rivers and wetlands, comprise 0.01% of the planet’s water, freshwater aquatic ecosystems support a significantly comprehensive part of the world’s biodiversity. Freshwater fishes account for an estimated 25% of all vertebrate species with an estimated 44,000 freshwater biota species which have been scientifically identified and named (Moss, 2010). Computation of overall endangered species indicates that freshwater biodiversity is significantly threatened in contrast to terrestrial biodiversity.
Thus, the freshwater aquatic conservation strategy emphasizes on conserving and maintaining the ecological integrity and health of freshwater aquatic ecosystems in order to conserve and maintain the diversity, distribution and complexity aquatic ecosystems and watershed structures to ascertain the preservation and protection of aquatic ecosystems to which biodiversity, communities and populations are distinctively adapted (Moss, 2010).
Freshwater aquatic ecosystem management and conservation needs collaborated research, entailing social, inter-disciplinary and natural studies with the aim of understanding the different mechanisms through monitoring social economic dependency, water quality and biodiversity among other initiatives. These sustainability measures require multidisciplinary-trained experts, capable of spreading the significance of ecosystems at research institutions, schools and colleges through the initiation of educational programs (Comin, 2010).
These are aimed at raising the degree of public comprehension and awareness of aquatic ecosystem conservation, restoration, goals and methods. Monitoring freshwater bodies on a regular basis would facilitate critical inputs for management and conservation. This is necessitated by the various anthropogenic activities catering for the needs of the ever growing population and the increasing degradation of freshwater aquatic ecosystems through various stressors. As such, a significant number of aquatic ecosystems require expedited far-reaching restoration and corrective initiatives (Comin, 2010).
Escalating human populations, coupled with industrial and agricultural developments have increased the demand for water resources. The escalating need for food as a consequence of climatic and weather changes has increased the necessity for irrigation and water supply; hence more energy demands, leading to the development of conflicts. The creation and implementation of a comprehensive progressive and integrated freshwater resource management system must incorporate water law. More so, in downstream-upstream circumstances where water uses conflicts are prevalent and inevitable.