The role of soils in regulation and provision of blue and green water

S.D. Keesstra*, S. Sannighrani, M. Lopez Vicente, Manuel Pulido, A. Novara, S.M. Visser, Zahra Kalantari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims for clean water and sanitation for all by 2030, through eight subgoals dealing with four themes: (i) water quantity and availability, (ii) water quality, (iii) finding sustainable solutions and (iv) policy and governance. In this opinion paper, we assess how soils and associated land and water management can help achieve this goal, considering soils at two scales: local soil health and healthy landscapes. The merging of these two viewpoints shows the interlinked importance of the two scales. Soil health reflects the capacity of a soil to provide ecosystem services at a specific location, taking into account local climate and soil conditions. Soil is also an important component of a healthy and sustainable landscape, and they are connected by the water that flows through the soil and the transported sediments. Soils are linked to water in two ways: through plant-available water in the soil (green water) and through water in surface bodies or available as groundwater (blue water). In addition, water connects the soil scale and the landscape scale by flowing through both. Nature-based solutions at both soil health and landscape-scale can help achieve sustainable future development but need to be embedded in good governance, social acceptance and economic viability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200175
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Biological sciences
Issue number1834
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2021


  • blue and green water
  • connectivity
  • ecosystem services
  • nature-based solutions
  • soil health
  • Sustainable Development Goal 6


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