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Introduction How Rivers Run Stories Value Of A River What We Can Do
Common wealth from healthy rivers

Healthy river systems represent tremendous potential wealth for human communities, as illustrated by the Costa Rican and New York City experiences. This common wealth from rivers can be characterized as ecosystem goods and services. Clean water, waste recycling, and food production are three examples of ecosystem goods and services available from healthy river systems.

In Nature's Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems, Gretchen C. Daily, a Stanford University scientist, defines ecosystem services as "the conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life." They maintain the production of ecosystem goods, such as food, forage, timber, fuels, fiber, pharmaceuticals and industrial products. Ecosystem services are the actual life-support functions, such as cleansing, recycling, and renewal. In addition, ecosystem services confer numerous intangible aesthetic and cultural benefits (Daily, 1997).

As we learned from lessons in River Stories, significantly altering any of the five basic components of streams-their flow, shape, connections, quality, or life-sends reverberations throughout the system that could reduce its capacity to deliver ecosystem goods and services.

We may diminish long-term value for short-term gain. In effect, we may be living a resource-rich lifestyle at the expense of our descendents by robbing the future of their common wealth from rivers. By protecting ecosystems, as New York City did in protecting its valuable watershed, we invest in our economic and ecological future.

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A New Stream
Common Wealth
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