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TNC and CH2M Hill Bring Green Infrastructure to a City Near You

Amber Orozco

The private sector doubled their investment in watershed health during 2013 to $41 million, according to findings from the State of Watershed Investments 2014 Executive Summary-out this month. In other news, the Water Benefit Standard launched at World Water Week and the first ever transaction of Stormwater Retention Credits occurred in Washington D.C.

This article was originally published in the Water Log newsletter. Click here to read the original.

1 October 2014 | Greetings! Earlier this month we launched the Executive Summary of the State of Watershed Investment 2014 report at World Water Week in Stockholm. The report finds that $9.6 billion flowed to natural infrastructure for water in 2013, protecting a land area larger than India.


Among our key findings?

  • More than 90% of watershed investment came from national public subsidies, including $8.8B attributed to the Chinese government.
  • Private landholders are the leading supplier of natural infrastructure worldwide: at least 7 million households received compensation for sustainable management and protection in 2013.
  • The private sector invested another $41 million into watershed health – approximately twice as much as was tracked in 2011. Particularly active were businesses with obvious exposure to water-related risks, like private water utilities and the food and beverage sector. The Coca-Cola Company alone has invested at least $2.2M to date to support 20 such projects worldwide.
  • Other risk-exposed businesses such as energy utilities or agricultural producers were less active in 2013, with market participants linking under-investment to regulatory uncertainty and a lack of clear information about programs’ return on investment.
  • Survey respondents reported $6B that has already been committed to watershed investment activities through 2020. Leaders in the field are looking to the private sector, climate finance, and the re-allocation of infrastructure spending as future financing channels.

 

Figure: Count of Newly-Operational Watershed Investment Programs, 1990-2013
Count of programs
Source: Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, 2014. 

 

Learn more here. A full report is due out later this fall.

 

In this month’s Water Log, it’s been a month of firsts. The Washingdon DC District Department of the Environment oversaw its first-ever transaction of Stormwater Retention Credits under a new stormwater trading program. Meanwhile, the Gold Standard launched its Water Benefit Certificate, which certifies water quantity benefits from water stewardship projects. We’re also following a new collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and CH2M Hill that will test out green infrastructure approaches at scale in four regions in North America learn more about that here.

The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact newsletter@ecosystemmarketplace.com


EM Headlines

GENERAL

Nature-Based Water Solutions Drew $9.6 Billion In 2013

Last year, governments and companies invested $9.6 billion in initiatives implementing nature-based solutions to sustain the world’s clean water supplies. According to a new report from Forest Trends Ecosystem Marketplace, this funding which supports healthy watersheds that naturally filter water, absorb storm surge, and perform other critical functions flowed to more than seven million households and restored and protected a total of 365 million hectares (ha) of land, an area larger than India.

 

Up from $8.2B in investment tracked in 2011, the researchers say the sector’s continued growth and near-doubling of the hundreds of operational programs reflects governments desire to secure water quality and availability with affordable strategies that can complement or replace industrial infrastructure.

Read more.

DDOE Approves Trade For First Of Its Kind Stormwater Retention Credit Trading Program

Washington D.C.’s Stormwater Retention Credit (SRC) trading program hit a milestone this month. D.C.’s District Department of the Environment approved the first trade of the program – 11,013 SRCs worth $25,000. The program allows property owners who voluntarily implement green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff to earn credits and generate revenue. Under the District’s current stormwater management regulations, development projects permitted after January 2014 must meet river-protecting stormwater retention standards and can meet a portion of this requirement by using SRCs. Projects using SRCs must own them by the end of construction, which typically takes a year or longer.

Get more info from Ecosystem Marketplace.
Read a press release.

Water Benefit Standard Launches At World Water Week

Most people associate environmental consultancy First Climate with carbon footprinting and greenhouse-gas neutrality, but as its clients began asking about water risk, CEO Sascha Lafeld began digging for answers. That was about three years ago.

 

“At the time, most of the initiatives out there were focusing on developing standards for water footprinting,” he says. “What we wanted to do was apply our learning and expertise in the carbon space to water.”

 

Out of this line of thought came the concept for the Water Benefit Standard, a results-based approach to finance global water projects that was launched at World Water Week earlier this month.

Ecosystem Marketplace has coverage.

Global Leaders Pledge $1 Billion To End Deforestation By 2030

Heading into last week’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York City, it would have been easy to take the pessimistic view that this would be another exhausting round of discussions where no concrete action was taken to address the climate challenge. But the summit was off to a fast start as governments, multinational corporations, civil society and indigenous peoples issued the New York Declaration on Forests a joint commitment to cut forest loss in half by 2020 and completely end it by 2030.

 

The pledge, if successfully implemented, would reduce global emissions by anywhere from 4.5 to 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by the one billion cars currently on the world’s roads. The declaration also calls for restoring more than 350 million hectares of forests and croplands an area greater than the size of India.

Learn more.

In The News

POLICY UPDATES

Recognition of Water-Energy Nexus Grows but Solutions Remain Elusive 

The water-energy nexus was the main topic of conversation at this month’s World Water Week. And even though companies, governments and utilities recognize the need for integrated solutions, putting them into practice is difficult, especially with little involvement from the power sector. Activity can be found outside the energy space, however, with user companies like Coca Cola. The beverage giant is involved in water replenishment activities and acts as a partner in the public private partnership that promotes water security in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Guardian has the story.

Forest Restoration Reduces both Wildfire and Water Risks

Securing a clean supply of water has everything to do with maintaining healthy forests. That’s why Northern Arizona University watershed researchers are studying a forest restoration initiative happening in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest. Researchers say applying water resource management techniques will lead to an overall healthier forest that is aptly equipped to withstand drought conditions. And the thinning treatments slated for the forest will also limit wildfire risk, reducing the risk and potential cost of treating contaminated water.

Keep reading here.

Trading a Good Bet Even in Small Basins, Study Finds

A new study from Duke University researchers finds that water quality trading programs are likely to lower the costs of meeting clean water standards, no matter the size of the market. The study’s authors found that scale may matter less than previously thought when it comes to lowering cleanup costs, and that gains in efficiency through market size actually may come with a trade-off. “As the markets got larger, facilities had more opportunities to find suitably-sized trading partners who could help them reduce compliance costs,” Doyle said. “But as we exceeded the basin scale, we reached a tipping point where risks increased so that pollution from many sources could end up in just a few places, creating pollution hotspots.”

Read a press release.

GLOBAL MARKETS

Growing Green Infrastructure with Cross-Sector Collaboration

The concept of green infrastructure grows in popularity but it’s still largely underused. Non-profit The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and engineering firm CH2M Hill intend to change this. The two have formed a five-year partnership that unites the science and policy strength of TNC with the building and engineering capabilities of CH2M Hill to grow natural infrastructure solutions. They will focus on four regions in North America: the West Coast, the eastern region hit by Superstorm Sandy, the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes.

Get the story at GreenBiz.

Corporate Support Aims to Increase Sustainability in Kenya

Agricultural activities and deforestation continue to degrade the Tana Basin, Kenya’s longest river. But with help from The Nature Conservancy’s Nairobi Water Fund, and corporate supporters like Coca Cola, conservation practices can be implemented to restore and maintain the Basin’s ecosystem. Coca Cola recently contributed nearly US $150,000 to TNC’s water fund. The project focus will be on reducing water consumption through more efficient irrigation techniques and establishing alternative livelihoods for locals dependent on unsustainable activities.

Keep reading.

Solving Multiple Challenges with Man-Made Wetlands

Facing predictions that in the future, there will be prolonged drought seasons, resourceful utilities are relying on man-made wetland systems to save water and ease their dependence on rainfall. Wetlands are a cost-effective tool that solves several problems. A 2,000-acre system of wetlands in drought-stricken Texas, for instance, converts wastewater into drinking water at much less of a cost than filtering infrastructure. And in Aspen, Colorado, a man-made wetland system absorbs and filters stormwater.

Read more at Water Online.

Marine Offsets Receive Troubled Review in Australia

Australian researchers examined the effectiveness of marine offsets using the Great Barrier Reef as a case study. They found achieving meaningful offsets often isn’t happening due to poor policies, planning and evaluation. An article authored by the researchers is due out next month in Environmental Science & Policy. It will also include a list of recommendations aimed at maximizing the benefits of marine offsets while minimizing risks.

Learn more.

Financial Model Measures Real Risk of Water

Voluntary water risk disclosures are on the rise in all industry sectors as more businesses realize the impact it has on their bottom line. A new financial model created by University of Michigan researchers may be able to help companies understand risks better. The model measures how water, if not managed appropriately, impacts a businesses’ equity and portfolio volatility. It’s about opportunity costs, explains a U of M professor: “The loss of economic output is what is being valued in the market…[in terms of] opportunity costs and the fear of stranded assets.”

Learn more.

Is Water Quality Trading the Best Approach to Cleaning Up Lake Champlain?

In the US state of Vermont, Lake Champlain is struggling with pollution in the form of blue-green algae that stems mainly from phosphorous runoff from nearby farms. Solving this problem would benefit all who live in the region but stakeholders disagree on the best approach. State officials are encouraging conservation activities like planting buffer strips between agricultural fields and waterways. But a local business argues a nutrient trading program would incentivize farmers to use fewer polluting fertilizers. However, some conservationists are skeptical of the success of nutrient trading and instead promote a regulatory approach.

The Vermont Digger has coverage.

Fashion Retailer Aims to Build Water Stewardship through Collective Action 

“Fashion brands have historically focused on reducing operational and supply chain water impacts. While vitally important, such actions miss the real driver of water risk for our businesses, namely the cumulative impact of all actors within river basins. To reduce this direct threat to our business we must engage beyond the factory fence with other users and with water regulators.”

 

That’s according to Felix Ockborn, the sustainability coordinator for clothing retailer H&M. The multinational company is pioneering water stewardship in the fashion industry with the help of World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Their plan is to use collective action that involves the many stakeholders in a basin – farmers, policy makers, factory owners, etc – to reduce water risks and impacts. The tricky part is starting this process. Once initiatives have been developed on the ground, it will be much easier for other businesses to join in and strengthen them. “In the marketplace, we compete,” Ockborn says, “but in a river basin, it’s all about cooperation.”

Read more from The Guardian.

EVENTS

International Water & Energy Conference

Water is a universal cause. That is the reason why water actors meet again at World Water Forums, to share out the solutions and the commitments that will allow water to be sources of life, peace and development for all. The Greater Lyon, the Rhone-Alps Regional Council (Conseil Régional Rhí´ne-Alpes), the Rhone River Méditerranée & Corse Basin Water Authority and EDF (Electricity of France), in partnership with the World Water Council, the French Water Partnership, the GRAIE and SHF will host from 29th to 31st October, 2014 in Lyon an international conference based on the theme:“Water & Energy interactions: strategic challenges to territorial development. This conference is looking at being a transition from the 6th Marseilles World Water Forum in 2012 to the next one (March 2015 in Daegu, South Korea) and will also bridge with the COP 21 meeting (Dec. 2015 in Paris, France). Thus, it sets itself into the preparatory process of the 7th World Water Forum and intends to showcase local authorities international involvement on these strategic issues. 29-31 October 2014. Lyon, France.

Learn more here.

ACES 2014 Conference: Linking Science, Practice, and Decision Making

ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services represents a dynamic and growing assembly of professionals, researchers, and policy makers involved with ecosystem services. The ACES 2014 Conference brings together this community in partnership with Ecosystem Markets and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP), providing an open forum to share experiences, methods, and tools, for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference is to link science, practice, and sustainable decision making by bringing together the ecosystem services community from around the United States and the globe. ACES 2014 will bring together leaders in government, NGOs, academia, Native American communities, and the private sector to advance the use of ecosystem services science and practice in conservation, restoration, resource management, and development decisions. We hope you will make plans to join more than 500 ecosystem service stakeholders in this collaborative discussion to advance use of an ecosystem services framework for natural resource management and policy. Register by October 13th! 8-11 December 2014. Washington DC, USA.

Learn more here.

Nexus 2015: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference

The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and collaborators are hosting the Nexus 2015: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference on March 15-17 in Chapel Hill, NC, USA. The Conference brings together scientists and practitioners working in government, civil society and business, and other stakeholders to focus on how and why the nexus approach can be used on local and international levels. Submission deadline for abstracts is October 31. 15-17 March, 2015. Chapel Hill NC, USA. 

Learn more here.

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