Water, a source of life

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    Water, a source of life

    Water and culture are strongly interlinked. Water is a vital source of life, and culture greatly determines a person’s ‘way of life’. This includes the way people manage their water resources, having adapted themselves to the environment in which they live.

    For centuries sustainable water management has been daily practice in many cultures, resulting in a delicate balance between water resources and human society.

    Revival of old practices;

    Many of the traditional Karez or Qanat systems, found in arid countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, are presently being restored to use.

    These ancient underground irrigation channels bring water from the mountains to the villages, thereby overcoming the problems of evaporation losses. They are owned and operated by the local community.

    Water has played a more or less prominent role in cultures, depending on the environmental conditions people had to face. Indigenous cultures are still renowned for their ingenious and sustainable water practices. Modern practices have often disturbed and overruled these traditional practices, with undesired consequences.
    However, in today's societies we often see a revival of old traditions and a more natural and sustainable use of water. Finding the right mix between 'old' and 'modern' practices helps to find sustainable solutions to cope with climate change.

    Water has an important social function for women in Surinam


    Key messages and tips for professionals:

    • Water is a critical element for sustaining life.
    • In many traditional cultures water s linked to people's identity; if you destroy their water resource, you deprive them of their cultural identity.
    • In many cultures water has an important social function, especially for women.
    • New water management systems can be built on the successes of old traditions.
    • Solutions that are developed and maintained by the local people themselves stand the best chance of long-term success.
    • It is important to acknowledge and enhance the natural resilience of the system.
    • Public participation is a key to successful and sustainable water management.