This Week In Water: Battle Lines Drawn Over Pennsylvania Nutrient Trading Bill

The likely winners of Australia’s upcoming election pledge to cap instream buybacks and a Pennsylvania bill could promote unmarketable nutrient credits. Meanwhile, recommendations from Katoomba China have been recently released and a Chinese-language version of Watershed Connect launched.

The likely winners of Australia’s upcoming election pledge to cap instream buybacks and a Pennsylvania bill could promote unmarketable nutrient credits. Meanwhile, recommendations from Katoomba China have been recently released and a Chinese-language version of Watershed Connect launched.

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

27 June 2013 | Greetings! We’re pleased to announce that Forest Trends and Ecosystem Marketplace have launched the Chinese-language version of Watershed Connect, a unique online platform connecting practitioners, policy-makers, and other stakeholders with information on efforts to invest in watershed protection and natural infrastructure.

Watershed Connect
is a centralized platform to stay on top of the latest news and analyses, access key resources and tools, share projects, and research ongoing efforts on payments for watershed services, water funds, and other models to protect natural watershed services. The Chinese-language version of Watershed Connect brings critical information and analysis on experiences from around the globe to Chinese readers and expands the network of thousands of readers currently using the English-language and Spanish-language versions.

We’ve also released recommendations for scaling up investments in watershed services at the global, regional, and project level, developed by participants at May’s Katoomba XVIII: Forests, Water and People in Beijing. Drawing on insights and observations during the meeting as well as experience from around the world, the recommendations reflect a truly global collection of expertise on catalyzing innovation and getting results when it comes to water.

As for the news, we’ve got a few stories of the scary kind, with the likely winners of Australia’s next election pledging to cap instream buybacks, a bill in Pennsylvania that some claim will promote nutrient credits that are four times the current cost and currently unmarketable, and the Salvadoran government being sued for $400 million for refusing to issue permits to mining companies in order to protect their water supplies.

But we also find progress in business and the sciences: new case studies on building business resilience through green infrastructure are well worth a read, while other efforts around the world are contributing to a better understanding of critical forest-hydropower and terrestrial-marine linkages and designing interventions that work with these synergies, instead of against them.

As always, we want to hear from you! Get in touch via LinkedIn, Twitter, or email to let us know if you have a tip or an issue you’d like to see us cover. Happy reading…

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


Belizean Fisheries Project Could Help Protect Indigenous Lands While Easing Border Tensions

Environmental NGO EcoLogic has big plans for a bi-national fisheries project between between communities residing along both sides of the Sarstoon River in Belize and Guatemala. It’s an ambitious effort: creating a project in an internationally-disputed territory is unusual and something most organizations shy away from. But because poverty is the driving force behind threats like illegal logging and oil exploration that’s destroying the countries’ mangroves, wetlands and rainforests, EcoLogic believes establishing a healthy working relationship between the two nations could solve more than one regional conflict.


“On both sides, people are struggling for survival,” says David Kramer, Senior Manager of Impact, Learning and Innovation at EcoLogic. “We believe a project in this area can be a model for coastal zone management and trans boundary cooperation that can be used around the world.” He hopes they can ultimately build an organized union of local fisherfolk with decision-making capabilities over the region’s natural resource management and even empower them to meet the looming threat of oil exploitation.

Keep reading here.

The Natural Capital Declaration Moves Forward With Implementation Phase

Last year at the Rio+ 20 Sustainable Development Conference, the Natural Capital Declaration (NCD) was launched and hailed as one of the most promising initiatives of the conference. Now, almost a year later, the NCD marks the start of Phase II, explained in detail in the newly-released NCD Roadmap. Basically, Phase II is the implementation of the Declaration’s four commitments through the process laid out in the Roadmap.

The NCD is a global project that seeks to integrate natural capital – the ecological goods and services the Earth provides that yields direct and indirect benefits, like water and timber – into financial accounting, disclosure and reporting. In doing so, the Declaration believes it will create a broader understanding of natural capital risks in financial markets. The NCD has been endorsed by investors, insurance firms and banks. A total of 41 CEOs from these financial institutions have signed the document, which ultimately aims at a global standard for business for natural capital accounting and reporting by 2020.

Read more at Watershed Connect.

In The News


Pollution-Wracked El Salvador Contemplates a Mining Ban

Two mining companies, Commerce Group and Pacific Rim, and the Salvadoran government are battling it out in front of a World Bank trade tribunal after officials refused to issue new permits for their operations on the grounds of anticipated impacts on water supplies. The government maintains that impacts to the Lempa River Basin – the main source of water for the majority of the population – would be unacceptable; the companies responded by suing for more than $400 million through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute.

In the meantime a local bill to ban the mining industry is being promoted with more than 62% of the population supporting it; no new permits have been issued since 2008. Still, 90% of the country’s surface water is heavily contaminated (partly thanks to past mining operations), while one in four rural residents lacks access to an improved (safe) water source.

Learn more from The Guardian.

World Bank Endorses Green Infrastructure in East Asia Pacific Region

A new report from the World Bank emphasized green infrastructure measures as a core part of disaster preparedness planning in the East Asia Pacific region. Costs of disasters have been rising – economic losses in the 1990s were fifteen times greater than those in the 1950s, and 2011 the most expensive year to date – and they’re expected to get even higher with urbanization. By 2025, 21 of 37 global megacities will be located in Asia, the World Bank notes. “Policy makers can make a significant difference to ensure that progress in development and poverty reduction is not lost by acting now to build resilience,” write the report’s authors. “Investing in disaster preparedness—from strengthening hazard forecast services to restoring natural ecosystems—can be surprisingly cost-effective.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has the story.
Download the report (pdf).

Hydropower Depends on Healthy Forests Far More than Previously Understood

The already-controversial Belo Monte Dam in Brazil’s Amazon basin got some more bad news recently: at the current pace of deforestation in the region, Belo Monte will probably only generate about 40 percent of the electricity projected in its development plans, which had anticipated the facility to become the third largest in the world in terms of installed capacity.


The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are notable in that they point to a positive link between forest cover and seasonal river flows: the conventional wisdom has been that clearing forests actually increases flows because agricultural crops have lower evapotranspiration rates. But when assessed at a regional scale, say the study’s authors, reduced flows from less rainfall (which is associated with deforestation) more than offsets the effects of a decline in evapotranspiration.

The bottom line: Belo Monte dam developers had better hope that Brazil finds a way to check deforestation in the Amazon, while advocates of a nexus approach have one more arrow in their quiver. “We recommend that forest policy be considered in connection with energy policy,” lead author Claudia Stickler said. “There should be integrated thinking about land use and energy.”

Get the full story at Circle of Blue.

Linking the Ridges to the Reefs

Natural resource managers often overlook the connection between ridges and reefs – a relationship that’s still not always well understood. The latest edition of Marine Ecosystems and Management presents case studies on projects working to change that.

In Fiji, researchers from Australia’s University of Queensland looked at forest-reef links to better understand how prioritizing forest conservation areas would affect land-based runoff. They found that the right location makes all the difference: in one case, protecting 2% of forest in one place was as much as 500 times more beneficial to coral reefs than an equivalent intervention somewhere else. Now they’re working with projects in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia to apply lessons learned. Meanwhile, in California, after a 2006 E.coli scare and pressure from buyers, farmers abandoned voluntary conservation practices. Within three years of the E. coli scare, 13% of wetland and riparian habitat in the Salinas valley was gone – and that in turn led to increased runoff into Monterey Bay.

As MEAM contributing editor (and Forest Trends’ Marine Ecosystem Services Program Director) Tundi Agardy puts it, “Acknowledging the connections is necessary — no matter how much that acknowledgement may take us from our expertise and comfort zone as marine managers.” That goes for freshwater managers too!

Read more here.

New Colombian Law Drives PES Payments to Landowners

New payment for ecosystem services (PES) regulations established by Colombia’s Ministry of Environment on May 17th authorize payments to individuals who own land in key areas for watershed protection, based on the opportunity cost of seizing to grow crops or using the land for grazing. The money for these payments will come from municipal and departmental entities, which have to spend at least 1% of their income in acquisition of land for water conservation purposes or PES. In order to avoid irregular spending and corruption, environmental agencies must identify eligible PES areas before stewardship agreements are put in place. However, private landowners are still not entirely satisfied with the new regulation because there is ambiguity on the potential for future expropriation by municipal and departmental agencies.

Read the regulation here (in Spanish, pdf).


PA Nutrient Reduction Bill Promotes Expensive and Unmarketable Credits, Says the CBF

A letter from Harry Campbell, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), to state Senators in Pennsylvania has voiced some strong concerns about a draft nutrient reduction bill, saying “fundamental flaws” remain. In particular, Campbell notes that the bill promotes nutrient reduction technologies that aren’t cost-competitive at current market rates for nutrient credits in the state. The legislation, Campbell says, “threatens to manipulate the market” to drive buyers to nitrogen credits that cost as much as $11, though credits on the PENNVEST platform currently post prices at around $3 each.

Moreover, the bill would create credits inconsistent with Pennsylvania regulations and EPA trading rules, and therefore at present virtually untradeable in the compliance market. “We believe that as currently written Senate Bill 994 will not advance cost-effective and affordable nutrient reductions in Pennsylvania streams or the Chesapeake Bay and will likely have limited benefit to but a select few,” the letter says.

The Coalition for an Affordable Bay Solution – backed by Lancaster County’s Kreider Farms, which has already invested in a manure treatment facility [sometimes the jokes write themselves – Ed.] – responded with a letter of its own, saying that the CBF “has long supported programs that have never been required to verify nutrient removal and seeks to downplay the new legislation which will produce better ecological results at a lower cost to the Commonwealth and its taxpayers.”


Get coverage of the manure-flinging at Lancaster Online.
Read CBF’s letter here.
Read the draft text of the bill here.

Incoming Australian Government Says It Will Cap Buybacks in the Murray-Darling

Water buybacks in Australia will be capped in the future under the likely winners of upcoming elections, according to a spokesman for the Federal Coalition. That would represent a major legal change to the Murray-Darling Basin plan, which aims to restore water to the Murray-Darling river systems through a mix of water efficiency infrastructure investments and the government’s buying and retiring of water rights (known as “buybacks”). Now the Coalition says its intention is to cap buybacks at 1500 gigalitres, driven partly by concerns about their effects on agricultural communities. Federal Water Minister Tony Burke responded by saying a cap would “undermine the plan” and limit a key tool for protecting the Basin. Conservation groups have also expressed their concerns that South Australia, at the downstream end of the basin, would bear the brunt of reduced flows. Elections are scheduled for September 2013.

Read more at the Courier-Mail.

Green Infrastructure: The Swiss Army Knife of Business Resilience

Green and grey infrastructure “hybrids” that link natural and engineered approaches are the best way for businesses to withstand shocks like equipment failures, power outages, price fluctuations in raw materials, and natural disasters, according to a new report.

The Case for Green Infrastructure, a collaborative effort from Dow Chemical, Shell, Swiss Re, Unilever, and The Nature Conservancy, evaluates how different infrastructure approaches lend themselves to resilience to unforeseen events. The report includes case studies, including Union Carbide’s (a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals) use of engineered wetlands to comply with discharge requirements. The wetlands were operational in 18 months, require no electric power and little maintenance, and cost the company under $1.4 million, as opposed to $40 million for an engineered solution.

Get coverage from Environmental Leader.
Download the report (pdf).
Download the case studies (pdf).

In Minnesota, Farmers Promised Ten Years Without Sticks, So Long as They Eat Their Carrots

A new $9.5 million dollar program in Minnesota offers farmers incentives to improve management practices in exchange for guarantees that they won’t face strict water pollution regulations for ten years. Pilots have been launched in four watersheds. Participating farmers will receive financial and technical support to implement best practices limiting erosion and polluted runoff. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was on hand to announce the program, said that he hoped the model would be copied in other states. $3 million for the pilots came from Minnesota’s state Clean Water Legacy sales tax fund, with federal contributions making up the remainder.

Learn more here.

WRI and CDP Join Forces on Business Water Risk

Water risk for business is not a future threat – it’s already happening, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). In 2011 the cost of impacts like operational and supply chain disruptions and natural disasters were as high as $200 million for some companies. Yet the scale, scope, and geography of risk isn’t well understood – and neither do investors have enough information about business water risk to make decisions accordingly. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2013 Water Disclosure Questionnaire is one effort to improve disclosure; 500 investors representing $57 trillion in assets have already publicly backed the questionnaire.


Now, WRI has aligned its Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas with the 2013 Water Disclosure Questionnaire: data from an expanded questionnaire will inform WRI’s mapping efforts, offering a far more comprehensive picture of business water risk; meanwhile the atlas itself can help business better assess its risks for the purposes of responding to the Water Disclosure project.

Read more at Environmental Leader.



Research Intern, International Financial Flows and Environment

World Resources Institute – Washington DC, USA

The World Resources Institute ( Institutions and Governance Program is seeking a research intern with demonstrated experience in climate change, finance, and sustainable development issues to contribute to research and engagement for the International Financial Flows and the Environment project (IFFE). Through research, analysis and advocacy, the IFFE project seeks to direct international and domestic finance in developing countries towards more environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, low carbon, and climate resilient investments. The IFFE project is housed in WRI’s Institutions and Governance Program, which works with partners in civil society and government to improve the transparency and accountability of institutions entrusted with environmental decision-making.


The Research Intern will support IFFE’s work on climate finance through research and analysis to advance our work to promote effectiveness and legitimacy of new and existing climate change funds channeling international climate finance, and to strengthen the capacity and institutions in developing countries to mobilize, deploy and monitor climate finance effectively and accountability.

Learn more here.


National Roundtable on New Tools for Water Quality: Trading and Beyond

It’s been a decade since EPA’s Water Quality Trading Policy was established. Financial, regulatory and demographic challenges and opportunities underscore the need for innovative tools and market-based strategies. The U.S. Water Alliance’s Business Advisory Council will convene key policy makers, industry leaders, agriculture, environmental groups, and others to discuss practices and policies for advancing market-based solutions aimed at accelerating the cleanup up of impaired waters around the Nation. The dialogue will highlight advances made in trading over the past decade, continuing concerns, and the future of trading based on growing needs, new technologies, developing standards, and greater transparency and accountability. Is it time for updating and improving a national water quality trading policy based on lessons to date? How do we find common ground on the best ways to accelerate the pace of environmental progress? Please join us around a large and diverse table to share insights and explore opportunities for water’s future. 18 July 2013. Cincinnati OH, USA.

Learn more here.

International Conference on Water, Wastewater and Isotope Hydrology

The conference will discuss and explore new and innovative methods of treatment, better understanding and assessment of resources and their supporting ecosystems, proper management for conservation and approaches to achieve the dual aim of economic development and ecological sustainability. The focus is the necessary infrastructure to provide good quality water, in sufficient quantity, in the most sustainable manner. The conference will provide the opportunity to bring together scientists, engineers and practicing professionals from government departments, international aid agencies, private institutions, consulting establishments, research institutes and university organizations. We expect 500 delegates to attend the conference, but facilities are available for a much larger number. Go to the event website for more details. 25-27 July, 2013. Bangalore, India.

Learn more here.

6th Annual International ESP Conference 2013

Organised by the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) and convened by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and CGIAR Research Program: Forests, Trees and Agroforestry in collaboration with the Sub Global Assessment Program coordinated by UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the UNCCD-Global Mechanism, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE), A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES), and other ESP partners. 26-30 August 2013. Bali, Indonesia.

Learn more here.

The WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition

The WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition, presented by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and numerous forward-thinking organizations, is the largest urban-water efficiency conference of its kind in the world. Last year, WSI drew more than 900 participants from 34 states and the District of Columbia, as well as seven foreign nations. This year, as it has for the last five years, WSI will feature featured a full slate of comprehensive professional sessions and an expo hall highlighting the latest in water-efficient products and services. The event also will feature several affordable pre-show workshops (which are not included with the WSI registration fee) on Tuesday, October 1. 2-4 October, 2013. Las Vegas, USA.

Learn more here.


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