Fresh Water Conservation

Water and Sanitation – Sanitation is Vital to Human Health

Episode 2: How wetlands contribute to clean water

What are wetlands and how useful are they?
Wetlands are areas which are covered in water permanently or for long periods. Wetlands can be either natural or man made and can be salt or fresh water. Guyana has many large wetland areas including the many ponds, swamps, seasonally flooded forests, lakes and conservancies.
Remember? We live in the “Land of Many Waters”.

These wetlands support a variety of plants and animals which are specially developed to survive in water. These areas are among the most resource rich and fruitful areas and the primary source of water. They perform important environmental, economic, cultural and social functions, which benefit us all.

The Values of Wetlands in water purification and storage
The specific values of wetlands related to water supply and purification are:

  • Receive surface runoff during rainy periods
  • Remove and holds nutrients: for example excess nitrogen and phosphorus are retained by wetlands.
  • Store and recycle organic wastes: waste materials from garbage dumped in wetlands are broken up and retained by wetlands
  • Reduce suspended sediments or particles: water is sometimes full of sediments, wetlands trap theses allowing the water to be free of sediments or clear
  • Maintain stream flow during dry periods
  • Recharge & discharge groundwater: Groundwater is the water stored in the earth, but during very dry periods of the year is lessened. Water from wetlands can therefore flow underground to replenish this loss. Similarly in very rainy periods wetlands can store the excess water the earth can no longer hold therefore preventing flooding.

Can you imagine, despite these valuable functions of purifying and storing water, wetlands have a limited capacity to operate in this manner?
Yes, this is so!

Excessive amounts of waste, nutrients and sediments may not be entirely removed or stored by wetlands. Therefore, these excessive amounts of particles can eventually destroy the useful wetlands and thus the many values identified. If you have not already, you can now see that wetlands serve as a very important source of water, clean water.

Did you know...

...that value of wetlands in receiving, storing, purifying and releasing water is useful, as a source of clean water for all Guyanese?
  1. Residents of Georgetown and surrounding areas receive about 40% of their water through their taps from the water stored in the East Demerara Water Conservancy, which is a manmade wetland.
  2. Many people collect water directly from nearby ponds, rivers and springs for washing, bathing and even drinking.
© Jerrel Pinas
Waterfall at Brownsberg Nature Park in Suriname, South America.
© Jerrel Pinas