A System's Approach to Sustainable Development

Policy decisions that directly impact civilization today and the Earth for generations yet to come, too often make the mistake of assuming that we can independently alter or modify one element of a natural system and not expect changes elsewhere.

Check out "Practice of Sustainable Community Development" a new book published by R. Warren Flint of Five E's Unlimited



Read the paper
"Thinking Like a Watershed"


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Adaptive Watershed Management

The mission of Five E' Unlimited in watershed management assistance is to lead and encourage the development of interdisciplinary research and an adaptive, integrally-informed understanding of social-ecological systems at the watershed level; to transfer this knowledge to stakeholders; and to provide a focus for collaboration among partners, sponsors and clients. Our goal is to explore mechanisms for building adaptive capacity and sustaining ecosystem services in human-impacted watersheds; to work with stakeholders - citizens action groups; industry; academia; state, federal and local governments; and the general public in identifying watershed problems and seeking sustainable solutions; and to generate knowledge that can serve as a resource for human actors to develop their society and the natural conditions of their lives.

Few examples of balanced economics and ecosystems exist among managed lands. The key to successful long-term natural resource protection and/or restoration lies in the sustainability of economic activities in the watershed. A watershed is a ridge line or crest line dividing two catchment areas. Watershed can also mean a definitive change, or turning point. A watershed is that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.

Water is one of the most pressing issues the world faces. The different kind of land uses in watersheds directly affects the quantity and quality of water available for both human uses and to support ecosystem services. Smart land development strategies have shown successes, but have also encouraged inappropriate land use. For example, suburban sprawl’s high use of land on a per dwelling or per capita basis is unsustainable. Likewise, land development in water associated areas susceptible to natural disasters puts people at risk and wastes valuable federal relief funds.

Five E's Unlimited employs principles of landscape ecology in its work on watershed-wide resource management and planning because this approach simultaneously emphasizes understanding the ecological, social, and economic consequences of changes in urban and rural land-use and design, in the context of "thinking like a watershed." (checkout the paper by Warren Flint in 2006 entitled "Water resource sustainable management: Thinking like a watershed." Annals of Arid Zone 45(3 & 4): 399-423). Blending principles from geography, sociology, economics, and ecology, this approach avoids short-sighted solutions and instead demands a comprehensive understanding of how humans interact with the built and natural environment to ensure sustainable land-use that coincides with protection of both natural resources and cultural assets.

We can help you integrate the different elements of a watershed into adaptive management strategies that will result in more sound land-use and sustainability of both economies and natural resources. WE CAN MEET YOUR NEEDS for protection and restoration of valuable watershed natural resources by working with you in the following areas.

  • Classifying critical watersheds to establish priorities for conservation through the development of land-use diversity and management strategies.
  • Identifying critical threats, such as surface and groundwater pollution, to a watershed's integrity in order to protect its resources and value to society.
  • Making watershed management recommendations to ensure sustainable, clean water flow and the maintenance of productive aquatic resources.
  • Identifying system-wide controlling processes and mechanisms to distinguish environmental indicators for ecosystem health evaluation.
  • Recommending land-use impact mitigation, habitat restoration programs, and other remediation techniques in watershed disputes.
  • Analyzing the socio-economic value of watersheds and their environmental services for policy development and management planning.

Some of the different types of client work that Five E's Unlimited has performed in Integrated Watershed Assessment includes the following.
  • Investigation of interactions among land-use patterns, community practices, water users, and industries to design actions toward advancing equity, participation, and water resources sustainability for multiple watershed users.
  • Development of a management protocol for sustainable ecosystem restoration of coastal bay watersheds with recommendations for tools to evaluate restoration efforts using process/parameter indicators.
  • Use of remote sensing techniques in combination with historical and new ground-truth verification data to evaluate the success of ecosystem protection goals in mid-Atlantic coastal bay environments.
  • Leading of multi-discipline teams assuming responsibility for sound water resources use, information needs research, and community-based environmental protection activities.
  • Design of tributary strategies in coastal bay watersheds that emphasize enhanced vegetated buffer areas between upland development and coastal waters, significantly decreasing both nutrient and suspended sediment flow to coastal bay waters.
  • Provision of technical advice on sedimentation control, forestry and range management, water conservation management, wastewater treatment facilities design, and technical information dissemination systems.
  • Design and facilitation of public participatory approaches to integrated water resources decision-making.
  • Conduct of conflict resolution processes to develop consensual use of water resources among competing stakeholders and recommendation of institutional arrangements to achieve adaptive, integrated watershed management.

Check out our different watershed management projects and discover what we can do for you.

General Delivery, Placencia Village, Stann Creek District, Belize C.A. ---- Phone: (512) 256-7633 ---- e-mail: rwflint@eeeee.net

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Last Update: 1/1/15
Web Author: Dr. R. Warren Flint