NASA scientists last week discovered a “significant amount” of water on the moon, spurring many out-of-this-world questions among our team of market specialists. Will the moon be the next frontier for robust water markets, both for quantity and quality? Will future shuttle missions be trucking gallons of water back to Earth? Probably not, but it’s interesting to imagine where scientists will find the next big reserve of extractable, clean water to feed our increasingly thirsty planet.
For now, we’ll look a bit closer to home. In September, The New York Times launched a series highlighting one area where government can and must harness existing tools for water management: the enforcement of Clean Water Act standards and violations. The Times’ Toxic Waters series uncovers severe gaps in action against point source polluters who illegally dump millions of pounds of harmful substances into the nation’s waterways. The series includes some alarming statistics, for example fewer than three percent of Clean Water Act violations result in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. While this series may speak to local enforcement issues, we couldn’t help but draw ties to global ecosystem markets. In light of the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations, how can we expect the US to sign, ratify, implement, and enforce a global climate agreement--with or without reference to water issues--when regulators cannot control the most identifiable sources of pollution, those that come from the end of a pipe?
Stepping outside of US borders, we continue to see water quality markets and policies emerge globally. In response to the proliferation of ecosystem markets in Latin America, Ecosystem Marketplace has teamed up with Reforestamos México, a non-governmental organization focused on Mexican forestry, to launch Mercados Ambientales. This new website provides Spanish news content covering an array of payment for ecosystem service projects.
Amidst these developments, we are nearing the completion of our report, “State of the Global Water Quality Marketplace.” The report will quantify market transactions, with insight into both nutrient trading programs and voluntary schemes that operate outside of the regulatory framework. Our cousins in biodiversity are also putting the final touches on a similar product, “State of the Biodiversity Markets.” Both reports are due out in January 2010.
— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team
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