This Week In Water: A Crisis Of Scarcity Or Mismanagement?

Everything water is on everyone’s mind as this week is World Water Week in Stockholm. There, participants, including Ecosystem Marketplace publisher Forest Trends, explored several water-related issues including water valuation and its impact on resource management. Outside of Stockholm, institutional investors insist giant food producers disclose their water risks.

27 August 2015 | Greetings! World Water Week, currently in full swing in Stockholm, chose as its theme this year ‘Water for Development‘.

Good choice. The United Nations predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s people will be living in water stressed conditions. Indeed, when you look at the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, nearly all of North Africa and much of Asia are colored in shades of bright, bad-news red.

Yet a recent report from International Rivers says the world water crisis is not a problem of scarcity but one of mismanagement.  Water is undervalued, and therefore underpriced, opening up the door for it to be wasted and exploited. Many argue this problem is contributing to California’s water crisis: longtime access to cheap water has encouraged poor management.

On Monday in Stockholm, a group including Forest Trends, WWF, sustainability consultancy Valuing Nature, the power company Engie, and WRI hosted a session called Revealing the Value of Water, looking at specific case studies valuing water and the methodologies they used. You can learn more here.

The private sector also turned its attention to better managing its footprint this month. InterContinental Hotels Group launched a new water stewardship initiative, while Coca-Cola announced that it would hit its replenishment target five years ahead of schedule.

This was good timing, coming just as 60 institutional investors managing over $2 trillion in assets called on over a dozen big food and beverage companies to disclose their water risks and improve water management. If the industry is unconvinced, they might take a look at Ecolab and Trucost’s recently upgraded Water Risk Monetizer, which now include estimates of the scale of revenue at risk from water scarcity.

We’re also excited to announce the launch of a new webinar series, the Katoomba Dialogues, led by Forest Trends’ Water Initiative. The Dialogues will convene experts and leaders shaping the field of green infrastructure to discuss and debate timely issues, new opportunities, and the most important lessons being learned around the world. First on the agenda: Water footprinting and water stewardship certifications, hydrological assessment in data-sparse environments, and scaling up green infrastructure in Sao Paulo.

If you’d like to participate in the Katoomba Dialogues, sign up for an invitation here.

Happy reading,

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]


Exploring The Many Facets Of Water Valuation At World Water Week

World Water Week kicked off this week, which means sustainable water management is on a lot of minds. On Monday, several attendees attempted to pinpoint the true value of water. They found that valuation of water is on the rise as multiple sectors, including the financial, are seeking to understand its role and risks better.

Keep reading here.

Rice, Microfinance And Jobs: How Bangladesh Is Saving Its National Fish

By their very nature, fish are slippery and elusive – as are their habitats. That’s why payments for ecosystems services programs are so rare in fisheries management. But in Bangladesh, where fish and fishing are embedded in the national identity, the government has crafted a program that compensates fishers for conservation.

Learn more from Ecosystem Marketplace.

First Person: How 11 Ecuadorian Cities Pooled Their Resources To Support Their Watershed

Six years ago, southern Ecuador’s Regional Water Fund (FORAGUA) began to pool the resources of several municipalities to ensure safe and steady water supplies through sustainable watershed management. In so doing, they created a template for other small cities across the Andes. But that doesn’t mean the work is easy, as Nature and Culture International found when it spearheaded the effort. Here’s what they learned.

Keep reading here.

In The News


Is California Winning the Battle against its Drought?

Considering California entered its fifth straight year of drought this summer, the state is doing reasonably well. The government has implemented conservation measures and made sweeping reforms to environmental legislation that could spur innovative new technologies and techniques for conserving water. However, California’s resilience is fragile: wildfire is particularly intense this year, groundwater contamination is a serious challenge, and additional reforms, such as for urban water use, are still needed.

These difficulties are prompting some California water experts to call for integrative environmental policy, particularly one that includes a role for forests in water management. Experts have also noted that market mechanisms, including getting the price of water right and developing trading systems, can play a critical role.

Read more about the state’s water struggles at the New York Times.
Learn about some proposed solutions, from Circle of Blue.

Fish and Farmers Lay Claim to California Water

Cold and deep water in northern California’s Klamath River is crucial to the salmon that live there, which is why the Bureau of Reclamation ordered water releases from a dam on the Klamath’s main tributary to ensure the fish species doesn’t experience another die-off period like one that took place in the early 2000s. But the water diversion could lead to political and legal battles: salmon share this water with the state’s largest irrigation district, which has contested such diversions in the past.

Read it at the New York Times.

Water, Carbon and Locals Benefit from Massachusetts’ Do-It-All Program

Three Massachusetts cities have developed an innovative program that protects a local watershed, sequesters carbon and generates revenue. The cities plan to sell carbon credits in the carbon markets, either voluntarily or by linking with regulatory programs in California or Quebec, and then harness the profits to preserve and conserve their watersheds.

Learn more.


Investors Hungry for Information on Big Food’s Water Risks

Earlier this month, Ceres, a nonprofit focused on sustainability in business, organized 60 institutional investors, managing over $2 trillion in assets, to call on over a dozen big food and beverage companies to not only disclose their water risks but also improve water management within their operations. While some large companies are making efforts to manage their water risk, Ceres says many others are not.

Get the full story here.

Rise of the Sustainable Food Supply Chain?

More and more water and food professionals argue that the pollution problem in Lake Erie – and many other waterways – can be fixed with sustainable agriculture. They’ve already received public support. But now, major food producers like Walmart, Unilever and General Mills are on board, saying they’re committed to developing sustainable supply chains starting with a reduction in fertilizer runoff.

National Geographic has the story.

Coca-Cola Hits Replenishment Target With Five Years to Spare

Coca-Cola announced this month that it will meet its water replenishment goal five years ahead of schedule. Coca-Cola has committed to replenishing 100% of water used in operations and beverages by 2020 by funding community water and environmental conservation projects. As of 2014, it had reached the 94% mark (with 153.6B liters returned to the landscape since 2004), and expects to hit full replenishment this year.

Learn more at Sustainable Brands.

Green Cities Paved with Private Investment

Green infrastructure can help solve pressing urban-area challenges like massive stormwater overflows or storm protection. And with private investment, these practices can scale up faster, say Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek and CEO of Commercial Banking at JPMorgan Chase Doug Petno in a recent column. Green infrastructure trading systems, such as the one recently implemented in Washington D.C., impact investment, green bonds and brand new financial models can all play a key role in advancing green solutions to build resilient cities faster.

Read it at Bloomberg View.

InterContinental Hotels Group Signs On For Water Stewardship

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) this week announced a new partnership with the Water Footprint Network to develop a water stewardship initiative for the hotel giant. “IHG has a presence in nearly 100 countries, so ensuring we are good water stewards locally generates significant environmental and economic benefits for both IHG and the communities in which we operate,” said IHG vice-president of corporate responsibility Paul Snyder.

Learn more about IHG’s announcement.

The Achilles Heel of Natural Infrastructure: Too Cheap, Too Green

A new water fund serving Nairobi, Kenya, has a compelling business case: spending US$10M over ten years to replant river banks, terrace slopes, and plant trees will deliver $21.5M in benefits to farmers and the local water and energy utilities. It’s a low-tech, inexpensive, and locally-oriented solution – and that makes it hard to fund, says Giulio Boccaletti, global head of water at The Nature Conservancy. “The perception of this as a very soft and fluffy measure detracts from the opportunities to do this at scale,” says Boccaletti.

Get the full story here.

Water Risk Monetizer Adds a Feature: Revenue at Risk Assessments

Ecolab and Trucost recently upgraded their Water Risk Monetizer to include estimates of the scale of revenue at risk from water scarcity. The tool, designed to generate data for planning and capital allocation, previously offered estimates of risk-adjusted water cost. Now, “the new revenue-at-risk indicator illuminates the threat that businesses face from water scarcity,” explains Richard Mattison, chief executive of Trucost.

Read a press release.

Restoring Lake Erie Water Quality with Sustainable Farmlands

Lake Erie is troubled with huge and disruptive algae blooms every year. The US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is funding additional conservation activities on the working lands of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio in order to reduce farm runoff – one of the leading causes of these blooms. The agency has already invested nearly $60M over a five year period, resulting in over 1M pounds in nutrient reductions to date.

Learn more here.

Australian Study Locates the Sweet Selling Spot in Water Markets

Determining what price for a water right would incentivize farmers or irrigators to sell is difficult, but a new study claims to have cracked the code. The study looks specifically at Australia’s sophisticated water markets, but the data has international implications. It offers regions attempting to establish water markets information on how irrigators value their water rights and under what conditions they would be willing to buy or sell.

Learn more from ABC News.

Today’s Farmer: Water Efficient and Tech-Savvy

Innovative and new satellite, software and sensory data is helping farmers and other land managers conserve water and ensure it isn’t being wasted particularly in dry places like Texas, California and Australia. Techniques include drip irrigation as well as an efficient form of surface irrigation and technology that measures evapotranspiration on an entire farm field.

Learn more at GreenBiz.

Water for Lease?

Due to archaic water right laws and over-allocation in the western US, the already complex task of establishing water markets can be a Herculean feat. That’s why some in California are looking at leasing water rights instead – a mechanism already used by a number of states in the region. A temporary and limited trading system could bypass many of these complications and allow water to flow where it’s needed most.

Keep reading here.


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