From global to local: making international sustainable development goals relevant at the watershed scale
By Jim Perry
In 2015, the United Nations is likely to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 15s), with 169 associated targets. These goals are intended to improve on the Millennium Development Goals by addressing key systemic barriers such as inequality, unsustainable consumption, weak institutional capacity and environmental degradation (Stevance et al., 2015). The 169 targets are specific and allow managers (at any spatial scale) to assess progress toward the goals. However, sustainable development is complex, requiring society to make choices. For example, increased investments in agriculture can advance food security, but can degrade water resources and biodiversity (Stevance et al., 2015). If society is to make progress toward these sustainable development goals, there must be concerted action at the local scale. If local watershed management is to be sustainable and meet the broader needs of society, it must be conducted in ways that advance society’s broader goals. Chaves and Alipaz (2007) offered a Watershed Sustainability Index (WSI) that incorporates hydrologic, environmental, life and quality metrics. There is a significant opportunity to adapt the WSI to more explicitly incorporate the SDG 15s. The new index should be flexible, allowing stakeholders in each watershed to set priorities and assess progress toward locally relevant goals.