This Week in Water: A New Way to Navigate Water Markets

Ecosystem Marketplace is getting ready to launch its newest venture, Watershed Connect,  an online platform to advance watershed solutions that value and create investment in natural capital.  

 9 March 2012 |   Exciting times at Ecosystem Marketplace!  

Next week our newest venture,  Watershed Connect, will launch at the  6th World Water Forum. Watershed Connect is an online platform to advance watershed solutions that value and create investment in natural capital.  
To date, best practices are hard to find, spread out across a variety of organizations and mediums, and in many cases inaccessible. Perhaps even more importantly, there’s no effective space for stakeholders interested in watershed payments and environmental water markets to connect with one another and share experiences and ideas.  
Watershed Connect aims to fill this void.  We’ll offer a suite of communication tools, a global project inventory, ongoing news & analysis, key resources, and a project development cycle guide.  
We’ll keep you posted on the launch as it happens.  You can also get real-time launch updates – and join the community – by visiting our new  LinkedIn group  and following us on  Twitter.  

For questions or comments, please contact  [email protected].  



Video: Rethinking Markets and the Environment

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) posted a video of Forest Trends President Michael Jenkins presenting at a recent WWF-hosted symposium on how market mechanisms are transforming conservation and rural livelihoods for the better – something they haven’t traditionally been known to do. He talks about the current state of the markets, building necessary market infrastructure, and current trends he sees shaping water, carbon, and biodiversity markets.

Watch the video here (on YouTube).


Virginia Nutrient Trading Bills Propose a Bigger, Better Market

A pair of bills making their way through the Virginia legislature could give nutrient trading in the state a shot in the arm. The bills would implement many of the recommendations from a study commissioned by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Among the proposed changes to the existing nutrient trading program is an expansion of trading to include major polluters like urban storm sewer systems and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The bills would also establish a state-hosted trading registry, retire five percent of credits to offset nonpoint source pollution, and clarify credit generation and verification rules.

Learn more at the Bay Daily.

Go West, Young Mechanism


The High Country News (HCN) profiles Denver Water’s $33 million agreement with the US Forest Service to protect forested watersheds around the city. Denver and the Forest Service match funds to to pay for tree-thinning and prescribed burns to limit future wildfires and their associated damages to drinking water supplies. This model – of managing forests for hydrological services like water quality or flow regulation at a landscape level – is taking off around the west, with similar programs active or proposed in Sante Fe NM, Aurora CO, Portland OR, and Bozeman MT. As HCN notes, programs can face big obstacles: “They’re expensive, and policy-makers must convince water users that the additional cost is warranted. Environmental groups sometimes object to thinning projects, and negotiating payment schemes for public land puts agencies at risk of breaking the law.” But if these problems can be surmounted, potential benefits and scale look to be even bigger.


Read more at the High Country News.
Read Ecosystem Marketplace’s original coverage of the Denver Water – Forest Service Partnership.

Webinar Series: User Contributions and Conservation


The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center is hosting a webinar series on the ‘Conserve to Enhance’ program, which generates funding for local environmental restoration projects by supporting water efficiency projects for homeowners, and then asking that the savings be donated to a restoration fund. An introductory webinar has already taken place (slides and notes can be viewed online). This month’s webinar, “Achieving Local Water Conservation and Environmental Enhancement Goals with User Contribution Programs,” is scheduled for March 20th.


Learn more and register.

As Traditional Funding Drains Away, Marine PES Proposed in Florida


One way to save reefs from degradation is through carefully cultivating marine coral nurseries. A number of such nurseries have been successfully created off of Florida’s coast, but grant money for the project will run out soon. Last month, researchers and conservationists met in Key Largo to explore how payments for marine ecosystem services might fill the gap. Picking the right mechanism was a main topic: mandatory access fees are off the table given current laws, and as Forest Trends’ Tundi Agardy noted, ongoing payments are preferable to one-time user donations.


Read more at Nature.
Learn more about Forest Trends’ Marine Ecosystem Services (MARES) program.

Forget Gold. Invest in Stormwater Retrofits!


A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) looks at smarter ways to leverage private financing of green infrastructure (GI) to control stormwater. Green infrastructure leader Philadelphia, like many cities, has GI incentives in place including tax credits and fee discounts, but private property owners still find it difficult to secure upfront capital for stormwater retrofits. Financing Stormwater Retrofits in Philadelphia and Beyond reviews cash flow models for three financing mechanisms – property owner equity, commercial lending, and off-balance sheet project developer financing – and how public and private entities can support greater investment.


Learn more at NRDC.
Download the report (pdf).

A Green Infrastructure Offer You Can’t Refuse


A new World Resources Institute (WRI) brief offers updates on three of its payments for watershed services pilots focusing on forested lands. The brief highlights new work in using economic, regulatory and ‘beneficiary’ analysis to better compare green infrastructure with traditional ‘grey’ engineering solutions and incorporate ecosystem services thinking into land-use planning. All three projects – in the Upper Neuse Watershed and the city of Raleigh, both in NC and in Maine’s Sebago Lake Watershed – demonstrate a central insight: “make the financial case.” In Lake Sebago, for example, WRI found that green infrastructure could result in around $70 million in cost savings over twenty years.


Read more at WRI.


ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management Seeking Nominations


The nomination process for Swiss Re’s ReSource Award for Sustainable Watershed Management prize is now open. The prize awards $150,000 to one or several projects demonstrating innovative approaches to guaranteeing sustainable access to water in developing countries.


Learn more about the award and how to apply.

New Hampshire Grants for Wetland Mitigation and Source Water Protection

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services recently announced that grant funding is available for wetland restoration and drinking water supply protection. Projects restoring or protecting wetland functions may be eligible for support from the Aquatic Resource Mitigation Fund. Additionally, in the southern I-93 corridor and the Lake Massabesic watershed grant funds are available to mitigate impacts to drinking water sources from the I-93 widening project.

Read more from WaterWorld.


Charting a Course for Source Water Protection

A new pair of reports from the Water Research Foundation sets out a roadmap to every public utility in the country having a dedicated source water program program in place by 2025. The document identifies key actions to take – like improving knowledge and support for watershed investment – and includes an extensive bibliography of case studies and information on developing source water protection projects.

Read a press release.
Download the reports.

Climate Change and the Case for Markets

An essay written for the Environmental Law Symposium on 21st Century Water Law makes the case for relying more, not less, on market mechanisms and property rights in the face of climate change and water security issues. The author notes long-held environmentalist suspicion of markets but argues that “changing environmental conditions…do not counsel further restrictions on private property rights and markets. To the contrary, the prospect of significant environmental changes strengthens the case for greater reliance on property rights and market institutions to address environmental problems, such as the management of fresh water resources.”

Download the paper.


New Study Brings Ecosystem Valuation to the People (in Charge)


A new report from Earth Economics offers a model for using ecosystem valuation studies as a decision-support tool for policy-makers. Ecuador’s Intag region covers a range of ecosystem services and biodiversity values – as well as substantial copper reserves. To help policy-makers evaluate development alternatives in the region, the study presents projected income from exploiting copper, costs of doing so, and estimated values of Intag’s ecosystem services (using a benefits transfer method) all side-by-side, along with implications and recommendations for incorporating natural capital values into decisions.


Read the report here (pdf).

Theory vs. Practice in Designing PES Projects


Likely you’ve heard the prevailing wisdom on what constitutes a good payments for ecosystem (PES) project: clearly defined buyers and sellers, conditionality (payments contingent on provision of the service), requiring additionality, and avoiding multiple objectives (like targeting both conservation and economic development). But a new paper in Oryx argues that this ‘best practice’ guidance isn’t all that helpful in practice. Examining a series of water funds, the authors found that “requiring conditionality may limit the use of creative finance mechanisms such as trust funds,” and “requiring additionality can…result in the inefficient targeting of PES funds.” Moreover, while public-private partnerships tend to bring in new side objectives, they also have real benefits including transparent long-term management and reduced transaction costs.


Access the paper, “Water funds and payments for ecosystem services: practice learns from theory and theory can learn from practice,” pp 55-63.

Business Ecosystems Training Course Goes Live


The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has launched a free Business Ecosystems Training course on managing business dependencies and impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity. The course consists of four modules covering basic themes, frameworks, and available tools for ecosystem services measurement and management.


Read the press release.
Access the training program.


Ecosystem Credit Accounting Training 2012


The Willamette Partnership’s Counting on the Environment’s Ecosystem Credit Accounting System was designed to assist practitioners who are participating in or interested in ecosystem markets. The associated training program is open to individuals or groups and the modules can be taken individually or as a program ranging from one to six days. Training modules will cover foundations of payments for ecosystem services, ‘Markets 101’, and functional credit calculation methods for wetlands, streams, and upland ecosystems. Follow the link for more information on the training calendar and costs. 9 March – 8 June 2012. Portland, OR and online.


Learn more.

2012 Sustainable Water Management Conference


The 2012 Sustainable Water Management Conference will be a true sustainability conference focused on water resources integration. This conference seeks to combine technical presentations with in-depth discussions on legal, regulatory, and legislative matters facing water utilities today. The conference will address a wide range of topics concerning sustainable water management, including managing water resources and the environment, water conservation, sustainable utilities and infrastructure, urban planning and design, and community sustainability. 18-21 March 2012. Portland, OR.


Learn more.

AWRA Spring Specialty Conference on GIS and Water Resources


We are living through a remarkable period of advancement in information technology — in just a few years we have learned to take for granted the massive computing resources for geospatial searches provided by the major internet search engines. Every type of work in Water Resources is impacted by these new developments as new sources of data and new tools come online; but, standards for data quality, statistical reliability (uncertainty), and metadata standards are still trying to catch up. We look forward to sharing experiences in New Orleans; meeting others who deal with the same challenges at every level of detail on the wide array of information and technologies that will help us meet the water resources challenges of the new century. 26-28 March 2012. New Orleans, LA.


Learn more.

Planet Under Pressure Conference


Building on a comprehensive update of knowledge of the Earth system and the pressure it is under, the Planet Under Pressure conference will present and debate new insights into potential opportunities and constraints for innovative development pathways based on novel partnerships. 26-29 March 2012. London, UK.


Learn more.

Water Rights and Trading Summit: California


Water rights trading and water resource development are emerging markets that are creating abundant business opportunities. However, these new markets are not always easily understood. WestWater Research and American Water Intelligence are coming together to provide information and direction to water trading and development opportunities through a series of thought-provoking, regional conferences. 12-13 April 2012. Santa Barbara, CA.


Learn more.

2012 Yale Conservation Finance Camp


The 6th annual Yale Conservation Finance Camp will be held at Yale University, Monday, June 4 through Friday, June 8, 2012. The course offers the latest information on a wide range of innovative conservation finance tools, including new sources of philanthropic funds, public capital and private investment, as well as a framework for analyzing and packaging them. The camp is focused on useful, hands-on tools for conservation practitioners and board members, foundation leaders, private investors and graduate students. This highly interactive course is limited to 20 participants. Registration is on a first-come-first-served basis. For further information and a participant application please contact Amy Badner at [email protected] or visit the camp webpage. 4-8 June 2012. New Haven, CT.


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 Portland 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, OR.


Learn more.

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