Menu Close

[EV0501] Topic overview – Life in Water and Water in Ecology


About the topic

Water- the fundamental life-defining substance

Water is an essential substance. Because of water life on earth is possible.

The right to access to water

Access to clean water veris recognized as one of the fundamental human rights. Everyone should have access to clean water of sufficient amount and quality. Furthermore, Ecosystems also have the right of access to water. The Ecosystems that require certain amount of water for functioning.

It’s very important to understand that humans and water dependent ecosystems have equal rights to water access! This understanding  changes consumerism attitude to natural and specifically water resources which yields a change in consumerism paradigm.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem is the unity of the physical environment, its components (soil, water, climate and etc.) and of interconnected life organisms and these  units are formed  in specific areas. 

Ecosystems create certain services – ecosystem services. Ecosystem Services imply all benefits humans derive from ecosystems. There are four main types of ecosystem services:

  • provisioning services
  • regulating services
  • supporting services
  • cultural or esthetic services

In the past it was considered that water is free, because we get it from nature. Then it turned out that such natural resources also have a certain price. Nowadays our approach implies that ecosystem services should be somehow charged. 

This means that on the one hand each ecosystem has a certain value and on the other hand it has a right to receive sufficient amounts of water for its functioning. 

1.   Provisioning Services

Provisioning services are the products or benefits which are directly derived from the ecosystem: for example food, water, wood, fuel products, medical herbs etc. A good example for provisioning services would be drinking water for Tbilisi, which is derived from the river Aragvi basin. In this case, the river Aragvi basin provides ecosystem services to the Tbilisi population.

2.   Regulatory Services

Regulatory services are connected to the processes regulating ecosystems, such as climate regulation (sequestration/capturing of  carbon dioxide), oxygen generation by vegetation, purifying water (i.e. through excess humidity ecosystems), waste recycling by bacteria, plant pollination by bees, soil stabilisation and curbing land erosion by tree root system. These processes eventually promote creation of a clean, functional and sustainable ecosystem. 

 Let’s discuss this example. Forest ecosystems greatly define the stability of water level in the river. Water from rain descends to the lowest point of the land – the river, following the terrain inclination. If there is a forest on the slope, the following process takes place: the water drops falling into the leaves eventually reduce the frequency of water fall. Then water leaks into the soil. Part of the water flows on the surface. Big amount of water accumulates under the soil, flows into rivers and streams into the sea/ocean. In case of deforestation, the rainfall suddenly  flows in the form of a surface stream. There are no leaves and root systems to curb the water. The soil is washed out by the massive water streams, since there is no vegetation to hold back the water. The water along with the land layer suddenly falls into the river. This results in a large amount of mudslide. Since the ecosystem lost the function of water regulation, this results in water deficiency for the remaining amount of the year. Vegetation provides more or less constant distribution of river water and it is even and extended in time. Forest ecosystem provides water stability in the river basin. This is a regulatory service, or in other words constant provision of necessary water and climate conditions. 

3.    Supporting Services

It is impossible for ecosystems to function without consecutive natural processes, such as photosynthesis, nutrient cycle, soil formation, water cycle and etc. such processes, defining ecosystem functioning are called supporting services.  These services provide the existence of main forms of life on earth. Without them no other services would have existed. The examples of supporting services are: metabolism, food chain, soil formation, hydro (or water) cycle. 

4.    Cultural Cervices

Cultural services are a combination of all non-material benefits, which humans derive from ecosystem, such as intellectual development, esthetic pleasure, recreation -benefits connected to physical and spiritual well-being, tourism, education and etc.

Sabaduri forest, located in East Georgia, is an example of esthetic-cultural service, which humans receive from that ecosystem  created at Sabaduri forest. 


Fun Facts

  • Did you know that 70% of the human body consists of water! As for other organs, 73% of the brain is water (!) heart consists of 73% water, lungs- 83%, 67% of cells which build up the human body is water! 
  • Adults need 50-100 liters of water for various purposes – to drink, make food, hygiene and etc.   
  • Humans can live without food for up to three weeks, however s/he can only last without water for three days! 

Specific Problems

The intensive use of water in various human activities and spheres.

There is practically no sphere of human activity where the water is not used. Whether it is agriculture, industry or household sector, the consumption of water has significantly  increased in all sectors throughout the past few years.

Water deficit

Water deficit became the problem modern human beings face, due to the intensive growth of water consumption.  Nowadays a significant part of the world population lives in regions, where water deficit is a problem. In such a highly developed country as China, at least 320 million people do not have access to clean drinking water.  

Many forms of life (fish and so on) and habitat are dependent on water. 

Intensive use of water resources result in decrease in the quantity and quality of water. THis first and foremost is hazardous for water dependent species and their habitat. For example, functioning of the hydroelectric water plants,  significantly decreases water flows and fish population and its diversity.  

Loss of biodiversity

Decrease in quantity and quality of water is equally hazardous for biodiversity. Water deficit, change in its quality, climate changes, eutrophication and other water-related problems are significant threats for different habitats and steadily reduces biodiversity related to these habitats. 

Catastrophes/Climate Changes

Examples of natural catastrophes are abundant rainfalls and mudslides. Due to deforestation, a large amount of water is accumulated in the river basin suddenly. Due to cut forests, in the second decade of 2000-s a lot of such catastrophes took place in Georgia.  


Global collaboration

The most important is to understand that the problem can not be solved on the level of one community, city or even country. Its necessary to establish global and transboundary collaboration. The problem resolved by one party should not be again re-created by the other.  

Individual Activity:  nurturing, avoiding pollution. 

Saving water and avoiding pollution is possible via individual activities. For example you can change household habits, using efficient household technology, adjusting the plumbing system etc. Also, it’s possible to refine irrigation technologies and rational and efficient use of agricultural chemicals.

Working with students

The most important thing is for students to start thinking about the issue. S/he may or may not find the solution, since the problem is not easy to resolve. However, understanding and reflection on the problem may help students to undertake right choices in the future. Below you can find some of the topics you can explore together with students.  

  • Understanding Ecosystem Services – humans’ attitude on ecosystem services
  • Examples of squandering water resources
  • Examples of water pollution
  • What can we do to avoid wasting water or preventing pollution?

Good Luck!

Back to: Teaching Sustainable Use of Water Resources – Educator Course > Cycle 4: Life in Water and Water in Ecology