Watershed Payment Programs: Scaling Up By Staying Simple
Cities and communities around the world have embraced innovative financing mechanisms designed to ensure long-term supplies of clean drinking water by promoting good stewardship of the surrounding watershed. The 2010 State of Watershed Payments report documented 216 such programs around the world, with more than 100 of them in Latin America. Most of these, however, are small programs involving one municipality, while China favors massive programs encompassing large swathes of an entire watershed. As a result, China’s 47 programs protected 270 million hectares in 2008, while Latin America’s 101 programs protected just 2.3 million hectares.
That raised a key question that policymakers,practitioners, and scientists addressed at a Forest Trends Rio+20 side event, co-chaired by Peruvian Deputy Environment Minister, Gabriel Quijandria: what’s the best way to scale up projects?
The consensus to emerge: the best way to scale up is to develop programs that are simple, flexible, and constructed in ways that are compatible with local culture. The challenge will be striking the right balance between getting big fast and maintaining the kind of rigor needed to ensure the ecosystem services are delivered.
– Keep reading here.
The Senate Passed A Pretty Good Farm Bill. Will the House Gut It?
“This is not your father’s Farm Bill,” US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D, MI), Chairwoman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, kept repeating last month while shepherding the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240) through the US Senate. This latest generation of the legislative colossus known colloquially as the Farm Bill covers a half-trillion dollars in subsidies and, at 1010 pages (or about ten pounds of paper), is a massive document.
For conservationists, it lacks the dazzle of the 2008 bill that threw the weight of a brand new office behind ecosystem service markets. In fact, the phrase “ecosystem services” appears nowhere in this new bill. But a closer look reveals a Senate bill that, despite some painful cuts to conservation programs, is both bipartisan and surprisingly forward-looking. The House version of the same bill was released last week. Whether the two can be smoothly reconciled – and the best parts of the Senate version can be saved – is anyone’s guess.
– Get the full story.
The Blue Side of the Green Economy
A new report from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UN-Water looks at how water fits into a ‘green economy’ in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). A synthesis of outcomes from the October 2011 conference ‘Water in the Green Economy in Practice: Towards Rio+20’, the report offers best practices on mainstreaming water into a green economy, LAC-specific lessons, case studies, and expert input on the region’s water issues. An annex reviews policy and financing tools.
– Read the report (pdf).
Seeking An End to the Forests Vs. Agriculture Debate
Pity decision-makers at Rio +20, who found food insecurity, ongoing deforestation and forest degradation, and accelerating pressures on freshwater resources all competing for their attention. They may want to take note of a new ‘landscape approach’ floated at the conference, which is also at the core of a new research program undertaken by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and Bioversity.
A landscape approach takes an integrated perspective to land management that connects the various services the land offers, and suggests a way out of the old ‘forests’ versus ‘agriculture’ debate, explains Louis Verchot, Principal Scientist with CIFOR. “What happens in forests has an impact on water quality and quantity,” says Verchot. “What happens to water has an impact on agricultural productivity. What happens to agricultural productivity has an impact on how much forest is removed from that landscape.”
– Read more at the CIFOR blog.
Lack of Financing Weighs Down Water Progress
Though integrated water resource management (IWRM) reforms have contributed to improved water use efficiencies and greater access to safe drinking water, financing for infrastructure and investment in freshwater ecosystem services lags behind, according to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) survey. The survey, designed to inform proceedings at Rio+20, looked at implementation of IWRM by 130 governments in the last twenty years. Financing for water resource management and infrastructure was identified as a key issue by a majority of governments, particularly in less-developed countries. Still, 90 percent of respondents reported overall positive outcomes from water reforms over the last two decades.
– Read more.
The Pacific Institute Goes on a Frack-Finding Mission
A new report from the Pacific Institute’s report, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack From the Fiction, analyzes the current state of knowledge on fracking today. “Much of what has been written about the interaction of hydraulic fracturing and water resources is either industry or advocacy reports that have not been peer-reviewed, and the discourse around the issue to date has been marked by opinion and obfuscation,” said Heather Cooley, co-director of the Pacific Institute Water Program. Drawing on the latest research and interviews with experts from government, industry, academia, and environment and community groups, the report attempts to clarify what we actually know about the risks of fracking, and where better information is needed.
– Learn more.
– Download the report (pdf).
Global Water Monitoring Data is Drying Up
A recent study found the state of our water budget uncertain due to discrepancies between direct observation and existing global atmospheric and ocean models. The shuttering of thousands of direct observation stations, especially in South America, and the already-sparse number of stations in Africa and Asia leave many areas around the globe unobserved – meaning that there’s less data to test out models. “Differences between water budget estimates are an indication that our understanding of global and larger scale regional water cycles is still insufficient,” the authors of the study said. The reduction in observation stations comes most likely from inadequate funding and possibly political and social unrest in regions like the Middle East.
– Get the full story from SciDev.
The Price is Right, Tanzania Edition
A new working paper looks at designing payment mechanisms for a Tanzania program that seeks to compensate farmers for switching to agroforestry systems. Pro-poor Rewards for Environmental Services in Africa (PRESA) is studying the feasibility of a payments for ecosystem services initiative in the East Usambara mountains, known for their high biodiversity and carbon sequestration values as well as water provisioning benefits (a second water-focused project is also underway in the West Usambaras). The paper presents findings from a choice experiment looking at farmer preferences when it comes to compensation. Desired payment levels varied widely, but some commonalities did emerge: “Payment for manure fertilizer (representing an investment in farm productivity) was highly effective at motivating farmer support, a group payment was highly ineffective, and…minimal programme conditionality was not always preferred,” write authors David Kaczan, Brent M. Swallow, W. L. (Vic) Adamowicz and Heini Vihemí¤ki.
– Learn more.
– Download the paper (pdf).
Another $40 Million Cool Ones for Instream Flows in the Murray-Darling
The Australian government’s initiative to buy back water rights generated a AUD$40 million transaction from two major agriculture companies-Select Harvests and Tandou. The companies sold water entitlements ranging in price from about $750 a megalitre to $1600. Select Harvests sold 11 gigalitres for $18 million while Tandou sold 14 gigalitres for $19 million. Since 2008, the government has purchased $1.8 billion worth of water rights. The government’s already controversial buyback scheme met with more controversy over the recent transactions as some claim it lacks a purchasing strategy. The agricultural companies now plan to buy water back at a cheaper price.
– Get the full story.
Piecing Together A History of Ecosystem Services in China
Ecosystem services can sometimes be hard to measure. Even harder is measuring their history – how to gauge service delivery retroactively? A recent study led by John Dearing of the University of Southampton attempted to do just that, by comparing sediments in two Chinese lakes against demographic and economic data available on the region. Their findings are fascinating: soil stability dropped off sharply at the time of the Great Leap Forward; while a broader index of services has been in decline since the country’s GDP began its ascent in the 1980s.
– Read a summary at the Economist’s Babbage blog.
– Read the paper here (free access).
For Green Roof Company, The Sky’s the Limit
The US green roof industry’s rapid growth was evident in Colombia Green Technologies (CGT)’s latest round of funding; it attacted $1.2 million and several large investors, including the Ashford Company, a real estate company that controls office space throughout the US. Demand is driven by companies’ plans to comply with environmental legislation by implementing green infrastructure to manage stormwater challenges. Green roofs and pervious pavers are also money savers that help reduce flooding and energy use. With the new investments and funds, CGT plans to scale up their operations and enhance innovative ideas. The green roof market grew by 115 percent in 2011 and is expected to hit $525 million by the end of this year.
– Read a press release here.
After centuries of eradication efforts, some people say it’s time to take a second look at the beaver. Their dams create wetlands, which limit flooding, recharge groundwater, and support local biodiversity – and as such might be an effective, low-cost climate change mitigation tool.
The so-called “beaver believers” are working to reintroduce beavers into watersheds in the US West. Through its “Beaver Solution” the Lands Council, a Spokane non-profit, has repopulated eastern Washington with 45 beavers already. Beaver benefits have been known for years – in the 1940s, beavers with parachutes were air-dropped into Idaho to help preserve fragile ecosystems – but as author David Ferry writes, the idea’s become “especially compelling as the Earth warms and droughts become more prevalent: where there are beavers, there is water.”
– Read more from the Atlantic.
Green Infrastructure Blooms on the Prairies
An article in Stormwater Magazine profiles a slew of green infrastructure initiatives in Kansas, including the award-winning Lake Lenexa, a man-made lake designed to manage stormwater flows while providing natural habitat and recreational opportunities, and the ‘Green Topeka’ initiative. By implementing projects like the Belle Avenue Pond Project, which rebuilt a neighborhood pond to manage stormwater runoff after it broke past two dams, Topeka saved money on installing stormwater controls as well as on maintenance. Though efforts are driven in large part by NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) requirements, Kansas residents are finding that green strategies like vegetated swales and constructed wetlands not only improve water quality, but help prevent flooding and provide recreational activities, landscape beauty, and wildlife habitat as well.
– Read the article.
PENNVEST Posts Results From Its Latest Nutrient Credit Auction
Forward-thinking companies participated in a “forward” auction last month to prepare for the 2012-2015 compliance years for caps limiting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that can be dumped into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Wastewater treatment plants and other regulated entities purchased credits to meet their nitrogen limits. The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) regularly hosts these auctions, using Markit’s platform. 20,000 pounds of 2012 nitrogen credits in the Susquehanna river watershed went for $3.75 per credit, while 3,000 2014 credits sold for $3.54 each. The next forward auction is scheduled for September 12th.
– Read a press release.
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 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, Oregon, United States.
– Learn more.
Now entering its 11th year and serving a global audience StormCon is the premier event for stormwater pollution prevention and surface water quality. StormCon offers expertise from the nation’s leading engineering consultants and the unparalleled opportunity to learn from case studies presented by municipal professionals, engineering consultants, contractors, researchers, and others on the front lines of implementing stormwater programs, BMPs, sediment and erosion control techniques, low-impact development approaches, research and testing of BMPs, and water-quality monitoring programs. 19-23 August 2012. Denver CO, USA.
– Learn more.
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. Join us! Each year the World Water Week addresses a particular theme to enable a deeper examination of a specific water-related topic. The current niche for 2009-2012 is “Responding to Global Changes”, which looks at the potential and necessary responses in water policy, management and development to address pervasive and increasingly impacting global changes. 2012’s theme is ‘Water and Food Security’. 26 – 31 August, 2012. Stockholm, Sweden.
– Learn more.
Green Infrastructure for Ecosystem Services in the Built Environment: Masterclasses
18 accredited interdisciplinary masterclasses are being held around the UK and Ireland from September 2012 – March 2014. Led by experts in urban green infrastructure design, policy and implementation, these events will explore the local potential to adapt our towns and cities to climate change by working with the grain of nature. Starting in September 2012 in Glasgow, these 18 masterclasses led by UK experts are hosted monthly in key urban centres around the UK and Ireland. Participants explore the potential for urban green infrastructure in the host city, looking at issues of policy, planning, design, installation and maintenance, developing the confidence and skills needed for good practice and implementation. Facilitated by RESET in association with chartered institutions and Defra/DCLG’s Green Infrastructure Partnership, these workshops share knowledge and expertise with local practitioners and designers, planners and policy makers, contractors and green space managers. September 2012 – March 2014. Throughout the UK and Ireland.
– Learn more.
ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012
ACES and Ecosystem Markets 2012 is an international collaboration of three dynamic communities – A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES), the Ecosystem Markets Conference, and the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP). The conference will provide an open forum to share experiences and state-of-the-art methods, tools, and processes for assessing and incorporating ecosystem services into public and private decisions. The focus of the conference will be to link science, practice, institutions and resource sustainable decision making by bringing together ecosystem services communities from around the United States and the globe. 10-12 December 2012. Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA.
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