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Water Indeed Has Many Values, but Context and Scale Are Key

Derek Vollmer


January 19, 2022

In their recent Overview article, Jenkins and colleagues (2021) highlighted several important issues in the debate around water security—namely, that integrative approaches are needed to reflect the multiple values that communities place on water resources (Zeitoun et al. 2016). These include diverse cultural beliefs, human rights, environmental water needs and even the rights of rivers themselves (O'Donnell and Talbot-Jones 2018, Sadoff et al. 2020). Jenkins and colleagues proceed to illustrate their points by offering a global framework using a so-called planetary boundary for water (Gleeson et al. 2020) with various ceilings based on scenarios of environmental flows—the minimum amount of water left in rivers to maintain ecological functions—and floors based on human water needs, including for agriculture. However, it is hard not to see the authors being guilty of the very oversimplifications they were critical of earlier. First, the planetary boundary for water, although...

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Derek Vollmer, Water Indeed Has Many Values, but Context and Scale Are Key, BioScience, 2022;, biab137,