This Week In Water: Oil And Gas Sued For Climate Damage To Wetlands In The Gulf

Forest Trends’ Water Initiative will preview their work on blending green and grey infrastructure at World Water Week later this month. In the meantime, the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program is moving forward on pilot trades and an agency responsible for flood control in Louisiana is suing over 100 oil and gas companies for coastal land degradation in a groundbreaking new lawsuit.  

Forest Trends’ Water Initiative will preview their work on blending green and grey infrastructure at World Water Week later this month. In the meantime, the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program is moving forward on pilot trades and an agency responsible for flood control in Louisiana is suing over 100 oil and gas companies for coastal land degradation in a groundbreaking new lawsuit.

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

1 August 2013 | Greetings! While many of you may be reading this poolside (or perhaps not at all), there is no rest for the Water Logged. We’re excited about an array of research products we’ll be releasing in the next few weeks, including a report for business on nature-based solutions, a white paper on designing interventions for multiple ecological benefits, and a brief on cities and watersheds, looking at opportunities for cost-effective green infrastructure solutions to water challenges. Stay tuned for more news on these.

If you’ll be in Stockholm later this month for World Water Week, consider stopping by the Cooperation for Sustainable Benefits and Financing of Water Programmes workshop: Forest Trends’ Jan Cassin will be offering a preview of some of our work on blending green & grey infrastructure, in session 4.

As for the news – it’s been a busy month. In a groundbreaking new lawsuit, one of the agencies responsible for flood control in the US state of Louisiana is suing more than 100 oil and gas companies for damages caused by degraded coastal lands. The authority is taking the position that the Louisiana wetlands are subject to more frequent and severe storms and rising sea levels, and that the oil and gas companies have a duty under the permits that granted them the right to engage in dredging activities to remedy the damage done to wetlands. Even if the suit fails, it could push the concept of ecosystem services into the mainstream.


Meanwhile, the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program is getting moving on pilot trades, while Washington DC presented its plan for a stormwater trading system. The economists among us will like a recent study comparing buybacks to irrigation infrastructure improvements in terms of cost-effective instream flow restoration.

On the business front, starting in 2014 the Carbon Disclosure Project will ask all Fortune 500 companies to report on water risk exposure as well. That’s a very good thing for everyone: a recent report found that mining companies that report on (and thus, we assume, think hard about) their water risk management financially outperform those who don’t. And in another score for sustainability, renewable energy beat fossil fuels in a water footprint battle.

Happy reading,

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


Ecosystem Services Front and Center As Lawsuit Seeks Restitution For Destroying Louisiana Wetlands

The coastal lands along the Gulf of Mexico have created a natural protective buffer against damaging weather events. The buffer took 6,000 years to form, but it’s at the brink of destruction, with hundreds of thousands of acres now gone because of the activities of the oil and gas industry, according to a new lawsuit. The lawsuit filed against about 100 industry players says it’s now time for these companies to pay up.


The lawsuit was filed on July 24 by the Board of Commissioners of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East, a public entity that is responsible for governing the levee districts of Orleans. The authority monitors the integrity of coastal lands, considered a necessary complement to the entity’s flood protection system, but its job has become increasingly more challenging because of the deterioration and disappearance of the state’s coastal lands, according to the lawsuit.


“This is a very interesting next step in climate change asserting itself into the legal system and the political system,” says John Nevius, chair of the Environmental Law Group of Anderson Kill & Olick. “It seems like kind of a new front in the effort to focus people on this issue.” Even if the suit fails, it could push the concept of ecosystem services into the mainstream.

Read the full story at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Why Disney, BP And Rio Tinto Are Exploring Ecosystem Services

Disney, BP, Rio Tinto and Weyerhaueser represent vastly different sectors. Yet these companies see an increasingly persuasive business case for tracking the impacts and dependencies on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES). Simply put, the case for corporate action on BES has solidified, with internal and external dimensions that are more and more compelling. Ecosystem services are essential to businesses, as well as to some 450 million people whose livelihoods depend upon their ongoing flow.


This uptake of ecosystem services thinking is underway among a growing range of key corporate stakeholders as well as governments, as documented in a series of reports by BSR’s Ecosystem Services Working Group. For example, more than 16 government agencies around the world either are investing in ecosystem services initiatives or developing related policies.

For companies, all of this interest in ecosystem services means that a new bar is being set on international best practice. In response, the number of private sector players engaged on this issue is rising, with more than 35 companies publicly naming ecosystem services as an issue under consideration. And more are considering natural capital, as the Corporate EcoForum’s 2012 reporton the subject documents.

Keep reading here.

In The News


From Federal to Local, Action on the Water-Wildfire Link

A new partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior aims to mitigation wildfire risk in the nation’s forests in order to protect water supplies. The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan, builds on earlier deals between the US Forest Service and municipalities to fund forest thinning, controlled burns, and other measures that lower the risk of wildfire, which can burden water utilities with tens of millions of dollars in treatment and restoration costs. An initial pilot project is planned in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and Big Thompson watershed in Northern Colorado. Similar programs are in the works in Arizona, Idaho, California, Washington, and Montana.


At the same time, cities around the west are initiating their own forest management programs. Santa Fe residents recently began funding watershed protection efforts on their water bills – $0.83 per resident each month will translate into a $5.1 million effort over twenty years. Fire is actually critical for biodiversity and ecological function in many western ecosystems, but decades of suppression in the region, coupled with pine beetle kills and a changing climate, mean that fires now tend to burn hotter and bigger – translating into major water risk. “We can’t keep wildfire out of the watershed,” Dale Lyons of the Santa Fe Water Deparment told Circle of Blue. “But we have to make sure that fire is not catastrophic when it does happen.”

Read a press release on the Western Watershed Partnership.
Circle of Blue has story on the Santa Fe management plan.

Renewables Best Carbon When It Comes to Water Footprint

The Union of Concerned Scientists this month released a study comparing the water footprint of conventional versus renewable energy sources, showing that traditional energy sources can put significant pressure on water supplies. This is particularly relevant given recent severe drought in many states across the US. According to the study, more than twenty states have begun requiring utilities to submit water source plans in order to receive approval for new utilities. In Texas, because of water supply concerns, regulators denied a permit to withdraw from the Lower Colorado River 8.3 billion gallons of water annually for a new coal plant. Investment in renewables and energy efficiency could potentially water withdrawals by about 97 percent by 2050, the study says.

Learn more.

A Green Future for the Motor City

Two weeks ago, heavy rains in Detroit resulted in a nasty mix of sewer and rainwater being discharged into the Detroit River. But in a break from tradition, the city will not be investing in hard infrastructure in order to resolve its combined sewer problems, which according to the director of the city’s Water & Sewerage Department, would cost approximately $1 billion. Instead Detroit will be betting on a “blue infrastructure” plan. This would keep stormwater out of sewers by building retention ponds, rainwater gardens and similar sites. The initiative is part of the Detroit Future City plan released earlier this year, which establishes a roadmap for revitalizing the city over 50 years. The plan relies heavily on using vacant lots as green infrastructure sites, totaling an estimated 20-40 square miles. Details on costs or specifics of the plan are currently unavailable.

Get the full story here.

No Friendly Welcome for Stormwater Fees in Maryland

New stormwater remediation fees in Maryland kicked in on the first of July amidst a lot of unhappy campers. The fees, required in nine counties and in Baltimore, are part of the state’s efforts to control water pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But officials and residents are loudly protesting the so-called “rain tax” and in some cases even refusing to implement it. Counties can determine their own fee rates, leading to Frederick County levying 1 ¢ per parcel in protest (which will deliver $487 a year for watershed programs). There have been attempts to veto the law in Anne Arundel county, and public officials in Carroll and Washington Counties say they will also fight the fees, leaving some municipalities wondering how they’re going to pay for stormwater improvements. Meanwhile, Baltimore residents are raising concerns about what they see as clumsily designed incentives to offset fee obligations, such requiring 400 gallons installed capacity to qualify for a $24 rainwater harvesting credit.

Get the legislative background here.


Stormwater Trading is Here! (Literally, in DC!)

Washington DC introduced the country’s first stormwater trading program in mid-July with the release of new stormwater management regulations. Property owners subject to stormwater control regulations are required to install green infrastructure on-site (like a rain garden or green roof), buy stormwater credits, or pay an in-lieu fee to the DC Department of Environment. Offsite mitigation through credits and fees can cover up to half of retention volume obligations. A credit is equal to a gallon of retention per year and can be generated by any property owner that meets crediting requirements. No word yet on how much credits might cost, but in-lieu fees are set $3.50 per year per gallon of off-site retention volume – which is probably a decent proxy. An accompanying technical guidebook includes information on green infrastructure compliance and a stormwater credit calculator. The rule will be fully effective by July 2015 after a transition period.

Read the new regulations here.
Download the technical guidebook here.
Get coverage from the Examiner.

Finally, Some Good News for Buybacks in Australia

A new instream buyback effort announced earlier this month gets the state of New South Wales close to meeting its commitments under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, while getting a nod of approval from at least part of the agricultural community. Under the deal, the Federal government will pay AUD $180 million to New South Wales to buy land and water rights equivalent to 381,000 megalitres (ML) to benefit the Murray-Darling river system. The purchase takes pressure off other areas in the Murrumbidgee Valley where buybacks might have competed more fiercely with agricultural water use.


This agreement comes out at the same time that a new study in the Australian Journal of Agriculture and Resource Economics shows that instream buybacks are the most cost-effective mechanism for restoring the river system to health, especially when the economic structure of the basin has become less dependent on agricultural activities over time.


According to co-author Glyn Wittwer, infrastructure investments cost two to three times as much as buybacks per ML of water delivered, while “modelling indicates that for a given amount of money spent on infrastructure upgrades, three to four times as many jobs will be created if spent on essential services in the Basin.”

Read about the NSW buyback deal.
Learn more about the cost-effectiveness study.

CDP Aims to Move Water Risk Reporting to the Mainstream

Starting in 2014, Fortune Global 500 companies will be reporting water risks and opportunities through the CDP Water Disclosure (WD) tool. With this new reporting requirement, the CDP hopes to drive companies to report on risks and opportunities which will hopefully lead to companies creating water risk mitigation strategies. One of the features of WD is that it will include scoring which will help to identify best practices, industry leaders, and provide metrics for investors that will hopefully motivate changes in corporate behavior. According to the CDP WD’s 2012 report, 53% of respondents experienced business interruption or other detrimental water-related business impacts, and 39% required key suppliers to report on water-related risks. The CDP’s 2013 water report will be released in October


Get the full story at GreenBiz.

Ohio River Basin Trading Launches Its First Pilots

The first interstate water quality trading program in the US has recently reached “active” status, with the participation of five Soil and Water Conservation Districts in a pilot project in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. The project pays producers up to 75 percent of the cost of implementing agricultural conservation practices that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. Among the practices farmers can “install” are cover crops, nutrient management, vegetative filter strips, grass waterways, livestock exclusion, forage and biomass planting, heavy use area protection and conservation tillage. During the pilot trading period, approximately fifteen producers will implement practices that will keep 66,000 pounds of nitrogen and 33,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the Ohio River Basin. Through the pilot project, regulators hope to encourage farmers to voluntarily participate in the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program once it is fully established by 2016.

Keep reading.

Tracking Social Impacts of Eco-Compensation in China

As is the case in many places, hard evidence of ecological and socio-economic outcomes of payments for ecosystem services is a rare bird in China. A recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Management, Performance and prospects of payments for ecosystem services programs: Evidence from China, found that economic incentives given to communities in order to change forest use practices and thus reduce deforestation, did achieve environmental benefits: so far, 8.8 million hectares of cropland have been restored to forested lands. However, the study, which focused on a project in the Wolong Nature Reserve, also documented that in certain situations this was at the expense of cultural traditions, particularly loss of access to culturally important forest products. According to the study, $32 billion has been invested over the past decade on programs to return cropland to forests.

Get a summary from Science Daily
Download the paper (pdf).

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem?

Two thirds of major mining enterprises have been feeling water pains in recent years, according to a new report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and Eurizon Capital that tracks how firms are managing risks like flooding and drought. The report also highlighted a gap between the movers and the foot-draggers: firms that responded to the survey seem to be the same group that’s working to reduce water risk exposure. That group outperforms non-respondents (who refused to disclose data) financially, and probably environmentally as well, suspects CDP’s head of investor initiatives James Hulse. “With investors’ attention sharply focused on water risks and seeking guidance for engagement, it is of great concern that nearly one third of the metals and mining companies targeted failed to provide information, despite evidence suggesting that sound management of water is linked to better financial performance,” said Hulse.

Read more at Business Green.



Multiple Openings

Global Water Partnership – Stockholm, Sweden

The Global Water Partnership is recruiting for the following positions (deadline August 18th):


  • Head of Global Projects
  • Global Projects Assistant
  • Senior Network Officer (NO) – Energy and Water Security
  • Senior Network Officer (NO) – Food and Water Security


Learn more here.

Director of Development and Communications

Ecologic Development Fund – Cambridge, MA, USA

The Director of Development and Communications is a senior staff position ensuring the achievement of fundraising and communications goals through planning and execution. The individual in this key role will foster a culture of philanthropy within the organization, working closely with key staff and members of the board of directors, and is responsible for the strategic direction and overall management of fundraising and communications initiatives and activities. The incumbent represents the organization at philanthropic-related events and meetings, and is responsible for liaising with the Development Committee of the board of directors. The incumbent will also be responsible for raising gifts from existing and new major donors. As a member of EcoLogic’s Leadership Team, the Director of Development and Communications will also help shape the direction and culture of the organization, while contributing to the overall success in implementing the organization’s Strategic Plan.

Learn more here.

Project Director for Conservation Investments

The Nature Conservancy – California

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working to make a positive impact around the world in more than 30 countries, all 50 United States, and your backyard. Founded in 1951, the mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

The Project Director for Conservation Investments supports the California chapter’s work in conservation finance, conservation assets (including real estate, commercial fishing quotas, carbon credits and interests in fresh water) and environmental economics. The Project Director conducts finance- and economic-related analyses on TNC projects and serves as an internal consultant to various TNC California teams to bring sophisticated business, financial, and economic expertise to the design and implementation of the Conservancy’s conservation priorities. This position reports to the Director of Conservation Investments and is part of the Conservation Program.


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.

LatAm Mine Water Conference

Experts in water management and human rights recognize that water stress will only grow with increasing population, urbanization and climate change trends. Most parts of Latin America are facing critical water shortage issues creating an imperative for mining companies to consider either water trading or water recovery and reuse technologies. The coming years are expected to see continuing positive investment trends in mining water and wastewater sector through improved treatment level and resource recovery. 26-28 August 2013. Santiago, Chile.

Learn more here.

World Water Week

World Water Week is hosted and organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and takes place each year in Stockholm. The World Water Week has been the annual focal point for the globe’s water issues since 1991. Every year, over 200 collaborating organisations convene events at the World Water Week. In addition, individuals from around the globe present their findings at the scientific workshops. Each year the World Water Week addresses a particular theme to enable a deeper examination of a specific water-related topic. While not all events during the week relate to the overall theme, the workshops driven by the Scientific Programme Committee and many seminars and side events do focus on various aspects of the theme. 2013 theme is Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships. 1-6 September 2013. Stockholm, Sweden.

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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