Washington: Changes to water systems affect the health and well-being of communities living within them, says a new study.
For Margot Parkes at the University of Northern British Columbia, watersheds are living systems that are essential for healthy communities.
"My research focuses on the relationships between ecosystems and health," Parkes said.
Originally trained as a medical doctor, Parkes says it is important to take a holistic view of the issue.
"As with the body, you need to view the whole of the system to better understand the parts. This applies not only to the circulatory system of the body, but also the circulatory systems of landscapes, which are the watersheds in which we all live," she said.
As Parkes explains, water is the bloodstream of the natural world and, in a nutshell, if our water sources are not healthy, then neither are the communities that depend on them.
To better understand how changes to our water systems affect our health and well-being, Parkes works with knowledge from across the sciences as well as research into social processes and health dynamics to answer questions about better water management.
For example, who is responsible for ensuring our water sources are clean and healthy?
"Everybody… and nobody," said Parkes.
"There is often an assumption that because this issue is so important the lines of responsibility are very clear. Instead, responsibility is often partial, or shared between many different agencies, which means it is essential that we work together to bridge the gaps. How we manage our water has a direct correlation on how we live as a species," she said.
To promote an integrated approach to water management, Parkes brings together communities, different levels of government, health agencies, researchers and First Nations to discuss issues around watershed management and what this means for the health and well-being of the communities living within them.
The study was presented at the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast panel discussion at AAAS.