Decade-Old Ecuadorian Water Fund Providing Template For Entire Region
As indigenous farmers work the windy plains above the Ecuadoran capital of Quito, they slowly alter the Andean creeks and rivers that sustain more than two million people and scores of industries downstream. It’s a conflict that plays out across Latin America and, indeed, the world, as interconnected but disparate upstream and downstream economies compete for resources.
To resolve that conflict, a consortium of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and international donors set up the Fondo para la Protección del Agua (FONAG, or “Fund for the Protection of Water”) in 2000. Stakeholders – including water utilities and industries that rely on clean water – voluntarily contributed relatively small investments into a trust fund, which became the financial basis for the FONAG water fund. The funds go to education for indigenous people in the highlands, who agree to adopt more sustainable but less lucrative agricultural policies.
Now, just over a decade later, FONAG has been replicated throughout the region and generated interest throughout the world. Nearly a dozen new water funds have been or are in the process of being created, said Jim Rieger, program director for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), one of the NGOs that spearheaded FONAG’s development. All told, 32 water funds are expected to be completed within the next three years.
– Keep reading here.
Does PES Really Promote Sustainable Land Use?
Most take it as a given that payments for ecosystem services promote good land stewardship, but do they really? A massive project in Uganda aims to answer that by dividing 1400 households into two groups, each of which is being trained in sustainable land use, but only one of which is getting payments. Backed by the Ugandan National Environment Management Authority, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the United Nations Environment Program’s Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF), it's the first project of its kind.
Data on real versus expected results on biodiversity and livelihoods will generate vital information regarding the actual benefits of PES schemes involving rural communities in Uganda. The experiment’s results also will be used to inform the type of conservation scheme best suited to the Ugandan context. And evidence about PES effectiveness will help the government to develop a replication strategy in other areas at risk of deforestation.
– Get the full story from Ecosystem Marketplace.
Is Philly Building a $438-Million Stormwater Market?
Alisa Valderrama was helping the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) develop ways to finance energy-efficiency upgrades when she heard that the city of Philadelphia was offering to help companies pay for green infrastructure like rooftop gardens, absorbant sidewalks, and grassy parking lots like the one at right.
"That's when it just clicked," she says. “We were thinking, ‘Hey this sounds like energy efficiencies,’ and we started to take a closer look."
In an effort to make its stormwater management program more efficient, the city of Philadelphia is implementing a new pricing structure that rewards companies for greening their properties. To make it as pallatable as possible, they are also looking to see if financing mechanisms pioneered in renewable energy can be used here. The result could be good for the city -- and for environmental financiers.
– Keep reading here.
– This is the second in a continuing series. You will find Part One, Philadelphia Taps Stormwater Fees to Finance Green Infrastructure, here.
Coming To Grips With The Water-Energy-Food Nexus
The ‘nexus’ has become a popular buzz word to describe the complex linkages among water, energy and food security – sectors that have traditionally remained fairly separate. Talk of the water-energy-food nexus was a hot topic at last month’s Planet Under Pressure conference; it is also the focus of a significant German government-organised input to the UN Rio+20 Summit.
Framing burgeoning and interlinked challenges as a ‘water-energy-food nexus’ is useful, but could nexus thinking also be risky? Might it identify scarce resources that are most tangible and monetised, or able to be easily marketed, while potentially overlooking those resources which are less visible (such as certain biodiversity values) or insufficiently valued (such as carbon). In other words, could nexus thinking under-play environmental externalities at our peril?
– Read the full article.
Water Trading Can Save Billions On Chesapeake Bay Cleanup: Study
The Chesapeake Bay is on life support, and the medical bills are hefty – with some estimates approaching $1.5 billion per year just to reduce nutrient runoff to a manageable level. Four Bay states are experimenting with water quality trading to find cost-effective ways to reduce pollution, but the only entities that can buy credits in any of those programs are cities and factories designated as “Significant point sources” (SigPS) – a designation that doesn’t include stormwater runoff from cities and “concentrated animal feeding operations” (CAFO).
A new study prepared by RTI International for the Chesapeake Bay Commission models the potential cost savings under different project designs that include CAFOs and stormwater managers as offset buyers, and looks at programs structured according to geography compared to those structured according to jurisdiction. It concludes that the greatest savings come when a program covers the most territory and the most sectors – and that the savings to be gained by expanding to include new sectors outweighs by far the savings to be gained by ratcheting up the degree of participation within sectors already covered.
– Read more.
– Download the study (pdf).
Environmental Groups Sue EPA To Clean Mississippi Mess
The Mississippi River Basin covers more than 40% of the lower 48 US states and is one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions; but what’s good for farmers is bad for fishermen, as fertilizer and human wastes feed rapid algal and bacterial growth in the Mississippi River, its tributaries, and out into the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting green, orange, or brown scum is a familiar sight throughout the watershed, where it impairs recreational opportunities, fouls drinking water, and creates public health risks. Beneath the water’s surface is another, less visible consequence: low oxygen “hypoxic” dead zones, where algae and cyanobacteria have robbed the water of oxygen needed to support aquatic life.
It’s an old problem that regulators have failed to address, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), among others, is tired of waiting. So, along with nine environmental organizations in more than five states, NRDC sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency in March of this year, arguing that the agency has failed to meet its obligations under the Clean Water Act.
– Learn more.
Reading Our Way Through Rio Reports
There's been a deluge of excellent publications coming out in time for Rio +20, which your Water Logger is doing their best to keep up with. Here are a few picks so far:
A study prepared for the United Nations' Division for Sustainable Development, Agriculture and Food: The Future of Sustainability maps out the current debates around sustainable agriculture and offers some actionable steps - among these, understanding ecological limits to higher agricultural yields, and creating incentives for private-sector investment in the "public good." "Any serious program for agricultural sustainability must treat water, soil, biodiversity, and ecosystem services as central themes and foci for research and investment," write the authors.
- Download the report here (pdf).
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and WWF teamed up to release The Africa Ecological Footprint Report: Green Infrastructure for Africa's Ecological Security tracking key trends and indicators in the continent's ecological infrastructure - that is, the terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems critical to human well-being. The report notes that a 40 percent biodiversity decline in the last 40 years and changing consumption patterns are driving a growing footprint. But other initiatives that 'tread lightly', ecologically speaking, have seen great success, including approaches to integrated water resource management and eco-tourism. The report highlights some of these as well and makes recommendations for scaling up similar initiatives.
- Download the report here (pdf).
Releasing the Pressure: Water Resource Efficiencies and Gains for Ecosystem Services is a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute and the UN Environment Program that argues for understanding agricultural water use within a broader ecosystem services context. Understanding trade-offs between multiple uses and how best to measure 'resource efficiency' will be key to productive, multifunctional agricultural landscapes, the researchers say. Case studies demonstrate approaches to managing agricultural and landscape-level ecosystem services.
- Read a press release and download the report.
The old saw "To manage it, you have to measure it" is probably never truer than when it comes to natural capital. From the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) Partnership comes A Smarter GDP: Factoring Natural Capital into Economic Decision-Making. Incorporating natural capital values into national wealth accounting can help policy-makers understand their national assets and thus make better decisions about managing them. Natural capital accounts for more than a third of many low-income countries' wealth, and often it's the most marginalized within those countries who bear the cost of environmental degradation. "By overlooking ecosystem services, development decisions are inefficient," the authors say. The report offers an overview of natural capital accounting and uptake around the world, case studies, and current WAVES Partnership work.
- Download it here (pdf).
Proposed State Power Corp. in Philippines Would Invest More than $4M a Year in Watershed Management
Officials in Mindanao are proposing a state-run corporation to operate hydroelectric plants in the area, and to manage the watersheds critical to those plants' operation. Forest clearing and agricultural practices have led to tremendous sedimentation in Mindanao's river basins. "The watershed condition in Mindanao is very alarming. The island-region’s forest cover now only stands at 21%," says Luwalhati R. Antonino, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). Antonio said that a new Mindanao Power Corporation would allocation about P200 million (USD $4.7 million) a year for watershed restoration and protection.
– Read more
Your Monthly Murray-Darling Dispatch
Best Investment HSBC Ever Made?
A new partnership between HSBC, WWF, WaterAid, and Earthwatch will deliver $100 million over five years in major river basins and cities worldwide for water conservation, sanitation, and watershed management projects. HSBC, which is providing the funding for the initiative, noted in a press release that for some less-developed countries, providing universal access to safe drinking water can deliver the equivalent of fifteen percent of GDP of economic gains. "The people of the world's major river basins currently account for about a tenth of world GDP, but by the middle of the century they could account for a quarter," said HSBC Group Chairman Douglas Flint. "Yet these are also precisely the same places where water resources are set to come under strain. This has the potential to straitjacket growth, at the same time as causing untold harm to local communities."
– Read a press release.
Vietnam Project Goes From "Pilot" to "Province-wide"
In Quang Nam, Vietnam, a payments for forest ecosystem services initiative will scale up to the provincial level from the previous pilot model. Funds come mostly from hydrolectric facilities in the area, who benefit from reduced erosion in watersheds. 58 million dong (about USD $2,700) will likely be paid out in 2012. The scheme has been very effective to date in protecting forests from illegal logging, says Vu Phuc Thinh, Director of Board of Management of the A Vuong preventive forest. “People now do not join hands with illegal lumberjacks any more,” Thinh said.
– Get the full story from Vietnam Net.
Drill, Baby, Drill
With the new Dungeness River Water Management Rule coming into effect in the state of Washington this fall - which will set instream flow goals, requires mitigation (via water rights purchases) for all new groundwater pumping, and prohibits exempt wells - realtors' associations in the area are encouraging residents to drill wells and use water now. That's probably not exactly what the state's Department of Ecology, which is developing the rule, had in mind. The Dungeness watershed has been designated a 'water-critical basin', meaning that water needs outstrip available water. The realtors' associations say that the department has failed to adequately inform residents of the upcoming changes. So far, they've mailed 24,000 postcards to property owners.
– Learn more at the Peninsula Daily News.
– Read about the proposed rule here.
In Oregon, Money Does Grow on Trees
Sustainable Business Oregon has a profile of the Freshwater Trust's work developing a water quality trading program in Medford, OR. Medford officials say that thermal trading will save the city as much as $7 million over 20 years when compared to traditional treatment infrastructure. Instead, the Freshwater Trust will restore riparian shade by planting trees in critical parts of the river system. Not only is the approach cheaper, "it provides benefits that wouldn't be there with a more traditional solution," says Greg Aldrich of the Department of Environmental Quality. In fact, the model is so attractive that the non-profit Freshwater Trust is considering a for-profit spinoff to continue with this line of work. "This allows the economy and the environment to ultimately do business together," Trust president Joe Whitworth said.
– Read more.
A Cheaper Way to Clean the Bay?
Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc. is pressing the Pennsylvania Nutrient Trading Stakeholder Group to embrace a competive-bid approach to nitrogen reductions in the Chesapeake Bay, which Bion says would cut costs by as much as 95 percent.
Bion's proposal would put the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority ("PennVest") in charge of a request for proposals format to procure nitrogen credits, focusing on acheiving reductions via agricultural producers rather than setting allocations by sector for point source emitters. Farmers could submit proposals to implement best management practices to limit nutrient runoff. Bion estimates that agricultural nitrogen credit contracts would cost between $8 and $14 per pound per year - or between 50 and 95 percent less than projected costs for cleaning up nutrient pollution in the Bay according to recent RTI analysis - not to mention providing long-term certainty to financiers.
– Read a press release here.
Webinar: Incorporating Ecosystem Services in Optimization Strategies for TMDLs
Dr. George Van Houtven of RTI International will present research developed in collaboration with US EPA ORD's Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP). The ESRP has developed, under the direction of Dr. Jay Messer (retired) and Dr. Lisa Wainger, an analytic framework for assessing the cost effectiveness of alternative TMDL design and implementation strategies. The work focuses on evaluating the least-cost mix of green and gray infrastructure that achieves the TMDLs and how the mix changes if ecosystem service benefits are considered to offset costs. 27 June 2012, 1:00-2:30 PM EDT. Online.
– Learn more.
Singapore International Water Week
Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) is the global platform for water solutions. It brings policymakers, industry leaders, experts and practitioners together to address challenges, showcase technologies, discover opportunities and celebrate achievements in the water world. 1-5 July 2012. Singapore.
– Learn more.
5th Annual International ESP Conference
The Ecosystem Services Partnership invites you to the 5th annual ESP conference. Don't miss your chance to interact and exchange ideas with practitioners, educators, policy-makers, researchers, and many others. Be part of working-groups producing outcomes ranging from journal articles, white papers, book chapters (if enough we can put together a book out of this conference), grant proposals, database structures, websites, and much more. This conference is being organised jointly with the International Association of Landscape Ecology (IALE) and A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES). 31 July - 4 August 2012. Portland, Oregon, United States.
– Learn more.
EcoSummit 2012 - Ecological Sustainability: Restoring the Planet's Ecosystem Services
EcoSummit 2012 will bring together the world's most respected minds in ecological science to discuss restoring the planet's ecosystems. Come hear Pulitzer Prize winners E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond, Kyoto Prize winner Simon Levin, Stockholm Water Prize laureates Sven Jørgensen and William Mitsch, and many others in the first conference ever linking the Ecological Society of America (ESA), The International Association for Ecology (INTECOL) and the Society for Ecological Restoration International (SER). This international conference will explore innovative science-based strategies that are socially and culturally acceptable to create, manage, and restore these ecosystems, ensuring that society has access to all these ecosystem services. Our aim is to provide a high-profile platform for dialogue among researchers, planners and decision-makers to develop a better understanding of the complex nature of ecological systems and the means to protect and enhance their services. 30 September - 5 October 2012. Columbus, Ohio, USA.
– Learn more.
ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012
ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012 is an international collaboration of three dynamic communities - A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES), the Ecosystem Markets Conference, and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP). The conference will provide an open forum to share experiences and state-of-the-art methods, tools, and processes for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference will be to link science, practice, institutions and resource sustainable decision making by bringing together ecosystem services communities from around the United States and the globe. 10-12 December 2012. Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA.
– Learn more.