This Week In Water: Waking Up To Water Risk

WRI’s new mapping tool that provides real-time data on water risks could help businesses and nations like South Africa and Canada, who are investing in natural infrastructure to protect their water supplies, manage their resources. Meanwhile, water stressed India is hoping to get some relief with a new initiative that plans to implement climate adaptation projects in 53 villages.

WRI’s (World Resources Institute) new mapping tool that provides real-time data on water risks could help businesses and nations like South Africa and Canada, who are investing in natural infrastructure to protect their water supplies, manage their resources. Meanwhile, water stressed India is hoping to get some relief with a new initiative that plans to implement climate adaptation projects in 53 villages.

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

20 February 2013 | Water resources are under a lot of stress these days: climate change threats are growing, material risks to business are increasing, and financing for water infrastructure – green or otherwise – remains largely MIA.

None of this is news to our Water Log readers. And judging from the stories we bring you in this month’s newsletter, it looks like the rest of the world – particularly decision-makers in the public and private spheres – is also waking up to the water crisis.
We’ve got stories about investments in natural infrastructure to protect water resources in places from Canada to South Africa. Efforts to better understand climate change impacts on natural systems are similarly under way, including a new report on climate impacts on coastal zones in the United States and efforts to implement climate adaptation projects in 53 villages in India.
 Better information on water risk is also the focus of a new mapping tool from the World Resources Institute that provides real-time global data on twelve water risk indicators, an overall risk index, and a range of future scenarios. The tool is already being used by McDonald’s and Bank of America to assess their own water risk levels. Businesses got another new tool this month in the form of the new Carbon Trust Water Standard that recognizes companies taking steps to measure and manage their water use and impacts.
And finally, we have the story on a Rockefeller Foundation-funded effort that will provide seed capital and technical assistance for Community Investment Vehicles (CIVics) in eight cities across the United States to leverage private sector finance for urban green infrastructure – a new model we’ll be sure to keep tabs on in the future.
Don’t forget to scroll all the way to the bottom for upcoming events and job listings. As always, if you’d like to submit an event or job announcement, shoot us an email.
Happy reading!

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


Low-Flying Eyes In The Green, Green Sky


Remote sensing is a critical but expensive tool for verifying and validating the impact of land-use improvement projects, especially when using airplanes and other low-flying machines. Environmental consultant Steve Apfelbaum, however, says he’s found a way to deliver cost-effective surveillance using 1970s technology.

He’s using a military tool, primarily deployed for surveillance work in Iraq and Afghanistan, to monitor ecology instead. It’s applicable to a range of green uses: from measuring and mapping plant species disease outbreaks and amount of invasive spreading, to even identifying water quality and erosion issues in clear bodies of water. The work can be accomplished under most weather conditions; while near-infrared imagery is capable of being used in low light and cloudy conditions, this is often a key limiting factor for color imagery.

Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.
New to remote sensing? Read our primer here.

Is Wetland Mitigation Unconstitutional?


That question in the title is one that could very well be answered by a case the US Supreme Court considered this month. The case, Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, is probably one of the biggest wetlands cases presented to the Court since Rapanos. The issue put before the Court is quite simple: “Is the government liable for a taking when it refuses to issue a permit until the landowner has agreed to dedicate personal resources to a public use?”

Keep reading.

New TEEB Report Integrates Wetland Value And Economic Policy


To better understand the nexus between water, energy and food and to evaluate ways that would incorporate the value of wetlands into decision-making, TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) has published a report emphasizing maintenance and enhancement of wetlands as a key element in a sustainable economy. If the values of water and wetland ecosystem services are not conveyed in terms understandable and acceptable to those who make decisions, the report cautions, there is a serious risk that these services will be degraded or lost.


Outside of TEEB For Water and Wetlands’ overall emphasis on the importance of wetlands, the study is broken into chapters on the three issues it believes to be fundamental in creating a valuation system for wetlands: improving the measurement and assessment of wetlands, integrating their value into decision-making, and transforming the current management approach to wetlands and water.

Get an overview at Ecosystem Marketplace.

In The News


Warning: This Tool Is Addictive


As the risks surrounding the world’s water supply keep getting riskier, the World Resources Institute has developed a tool to provide real-time, detailed data at a global level. Their new Aqueduct mapping tool provides customizable, high resolution maps of twelve water stress indicators including drought, groundwater depletion and floods, as well as overall water stress baselines and several future scenarios. Aqueduct maps reveal serious stress to the world’s major irrigated crop regions and high water stress in the US West, Australia and northern China.


McDonalds and the Bank of America are already using the maps to evaluate their water use and inform investors about water risks. Several companies were involved in the development of the Aqueduct maps. These include Shell, Goldman Sachs, GE and Bloomberg.

Read a press release at Triple Pundit.
Check out the Aqueduct tool here.

Understanding Climate Change Effects on Coastal Ecosystems in the US


Predicting how coastal regions will respond to climate change is complex: each system responds differently and change is often nonlinear. A new report on the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) attempts to synthesize best-available knowledge, including an overview of major stressors to coastal environments, expected and already-observed climate effects on coastal systems and human societies, and key vulnerabilities.

The section on adaptation is particularly interesting; a “rich portfolio” of adaptation plans exists but actual implementation of those plans is too slow, say the authors. The report notes that adaptation planning activities “generally occur in an ad-hoc manner” and not always at appropriate scales; informational gaps and current decision-making frameworks also hinder implementation.


Download the report here (pdf).

South Africa Considers Nature’s Role In Its Future Infrastructure


South Africa’s forthcoming National Development Plan (NDP) will guide more than USD $450 billion in infrastructure investments over fifteen years – and across the country, experts are calling for allocating a chunk of that money to natural infrastructure. Strategic investments in restoring and protecting South Africa’s mountainous areas, rivers, wetlands, coastal dunes, and grasslands could complement or even replace built infrastructure, while creating new jobs, proponents say. Debates, however, have emerged over the best way to proceed with ecological investment. Questions include exactly how much benefit (environmental, economic, and otherwise) is obtained through natural infrastructure investments, as well as the best way to integrate complex and not fully-understood ecological concepts like biodiversity into effective planning and decision-making frameworks.

Keep reading here.

Big is Beautiful


A recent review of more than forty payments for ecosystem service projects charted some encouraging outcomes in terms of shifts to sustainable land use, improved food security, and increased incomes for participants. But the authors also noticed that most of the initiatives they were looking at were at the project level, which led to the question: what benefits would we see if PES were implemented at a landscape level?


Landscape-scale PES are probably better equipped to get over the initial hurdle of high start-up and transaction costs. Landscape scale PES can also “create economies of scale and a mix of solutions to safeguard ecosystem services,” the authors write, citing a program in Mozambique that links REDD+ financing to agroforestry promotion, which is costly but is critical for the success of the REDD+ component. Other benefits of getting to scale include mitigating leakage, increased opportunities for partnerships, and flexibility in seeking out an optimal mix of incentives, regulation, and enabling conditions.

Keep reading at the Landscapes Blog for People, Food, and Nature.


The Carbon Trust Launches a Water Standard

The Carbon Trust launched a new water standard yesterday to recognize companies that meet certain goals in water management, measurement, and use. The Carbon Trust worked with Sainsbury’s, Coca-Cola, Sunlight, and Branston to develop the standard. Limited information is available so far – an official launch is planned for February 26th – but it appears that the methodology focuses on water-saving measures and on-site controls to improve the quality of effluent. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that it considers watershed stewardship beyond the plant. As the Carbon Trust famously reported last year, just one in seven companies has water reduction targets or reports publicly on their water performance.

Read a press release at Environmental Leader.

A Green Infrastructure Approach to Climate Adaptation for India

A new insight note from the World Resources Institute (WRI) details an Indian NGO’s efforts to implement Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) projects in 53 villages to help India – an already water scarce region – adjust to climate change effects like less rain during the monsoon season and more severe droughts. Elements of CCA projects include water-budgeting techniques and technologies, agro-meteorology installations that provide weather updates to villagers and ecosystem and biodiversity conservation. The NGO, Watershed Organization Trust, already engages with the Indian government on a Participatory Watershed Development (PWD) approach where farmers trap rainfall and replenish surface and groundwater with natural landscape treatments, for best uses of their water supply.

Learn more at WRI.

New Community Investment Vehicles Aim to Tap Private Financing for Urban Green Infrastructure


The Rockefeller Foundation announced last month that they’ll be providing seed funding for a new initiative that aims to leverage private financing for sustainable urban storm- and wastewater systems in US cities. The RE.invest initiative will support Community Investment Vehicles (CIVics) in up to eight cities that will channel technical support and financial support and mobilize private investments in green infrastructure like permeable pavements and restored urban wetlands and forests.


It’s a welcome development for cash-strapped municipalities facing aging and outdated infrastructure. “Mayors are painfully aware of the funding limitations for critical infrastructure needs. RE.invest is going to be a welcome opportunity in cities across America,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in a press release. The initiative also aims to build municipal-level capacity for integrated planning and build resilience to climate change and other stressors on public infrastructure.

Read a press release.

Canada’s First Legally-Binding Source Water Protection Plan Approved

Thirteen years after a small community’s water supply was contaminated with E.coli bacteria through farm runoff in Ontario, the province will now be the first in Canada to approve a Source Water Protection Plan, which aims to protect water supplies at their sources. Thunder Bay and the village of Oliver Paipoonge Rosslyn will be the first municipalities to have their drinking water protected under the Lakehead Source Protection Plan, the first legally binding source water protection plan in Canada. A set of policies under the plan manage threats across the municipalities’ watersheds, particularly pollution related to agriculture and septic tanks inside designated wellhead protection zones.

Get the full story at Water World.


Asia Water Week 2013


The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is organizing Asia Water Week 2013 to deepen and expand analytical work in Asia’s water sector to advance inclusive policy reforms and strengthen support to priority programs and projects. The analytical work will provide the basis for sustained public investment and increased mobilization of private sector investment and expertise. Asia Water Week 2013 has for its overarching theme “Securing Water for All”. The conference will cover crosscutting topics such as climate change, water-food-energy nexus, and disaster management as well as sub-sector specific discussions, including water supply and sanitation, water resources and environment, and agriculture and irrigation. The ADB Water Prize 2013 award will also be presented. 13-15 March 2013. Manila, Philippines.

Learn more here.

Water Week Latin America 2013


Water Week Latin America provides one unique platform for the exchange of experiences and practices among the scientific, business, political, and civic communities. It focuses on a new way of thinking and positive action toward water-related challenges and their impact on the environment, health, climate, economy, and community. This encounter aims to provide real answers to water management, environment, and economic development. Our scope is Latin American, but it respects and considers the differences as well as the similarities between the various regions of the continent, the stages of development, the political systems, and the existing climatic conditions. 17-22 March 2013. Vií±a del Mar, Chile.

Learn more here.

World Water Day


World Water Day is organized in Geneva on the United Nations’ World Water Day held on March 22nd each year. Steve Zwick, managing editor of Ecosystem Marketplace, will be moderating the closing debate. This event is a unique opportunity to access strategic water interdependencies information to measure, manage and anticipate water risks and impact investing opportunities. 22 March 2013. Geneva, Switzerland.

Learn more here.

Water in the Anthropocene


The focus of the conference is to address the global dimensions of water system changes due to anthropogenic as well as natural influences. The conference is organized by the Global Water System Project and its International Project Office based in Bonn, Germany. It is kindly supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The conference will provide the platform to present global and regional perspectives of world wide experiences on the responses of water management to global change in order to address issues such as variability in supply, increasing demands for water, environmental flows, and land use change. It will help to build links between science and policy and practice in the area of water resources management and governance, related institutional and technological innovations and identify in which ways research can assist policy and practice in the field of sustainable freshwater management. 21-24 May 2013. Bonn, Germany.

Learn more here.

5th National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER)


Join us at NCER ’13 for four days of presentations in multiple program tracks, workshops, plenary sessions, poster sessions, field trips and coffee-house discussions dedicated to current topics in ecosystem restoration. We’ll explore the roles of policy, planning, science and management in establishing goals and performance expectations for achieving successful and sustainable ecosystem restoration. 29 July – 2 August, 2013. Greater Chicago, IL, USA.

Learn more here.



Director of Water Policy – Nicholas Institute

Duke University – North Carolina, USA

The Nicholas Institute at Duke University is looking for a new Water Director. This is a policy-oriented position that is not the standard tenure-track academic job. Much of our work at the Institute links directly to ecosystem services and the management of environmental capital. We are small, but highly collaborative within the Institute, across the university, and across the globe.

Learn more here.

Intern, Water and Climate Neutral

First Climate – Hesse, Germany

As part of the Climate Neutral Department, First Climate is offering a 3-6 months full time internship in a team which provides water-related consulting services to companies willing to measure their water footprint and/or replenish their water footprint. You will assist a team of experts in delivering consulting services, such as water footprinting, to a range of clients in Germany and around the globe.

Learn more here.


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