The infrastructure and technology needed to provide drinking water to communities requires continued investment of time and resources. Municipalities are beginning to realize that by adopting proven habitat restoration practices both the natural landscapes and the quality of the surface water within a particular watershed can be protected.
Putting a dollar value on ecological services has historically been difficult to accomplish, but there are methods that can be used to begin to quantify the value that species and ecosystems offer. For example, it is recognized that pollination, soil building, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration and water purification are fundamental services provided by nature to humans.
These “services” have economic value that can be approximated using market research methods. However, the economic viability of such ventures must be taken into account before they are implemented. The basic question then becomes; “Will the economic value gained from a particular restoration project exceed its monetary investment?”
Drinking water supplies that come from surface sources (rivers, lakes and reservoirs) can be impacted by a variety of anthropogenic activities. Agriculture and suburban runoff increase sediment deposition rates while increasing the concentration of nutrients in local surface water bodies. Under these conditions, eutrophication can occur thereby threatening the ecological integrity of the aquatic system.
Along the banks of fresh water bodies, vegetation plays a critical role in protecting the water from runoff and thus provides a key ecological service. These vegetative areas are known as riparian zones or buffers. In an area where water quality has been compromised, protecting and restoring riparian zones is a critical approach to facilitating the improvement of natural functions.