Building A More Resilient Gulf
Charlie Broussard, a shrimper on the docks in Cocodrie, Louisiana, has seen the wetlands he paddled through as a kid shift dramatically – literally. In fact, the Louisiana coastline is changing so quickly that fisherman and oil rig workers who have spent their lives navigating the bayou by boat sometimes get lost as familiar landmarks are drowned. In Louisiana, 1,880 square miles of land has vanished since the 1930s, and the current rate of land loss is equivalent to a football field every 38 minutes.
To begin to address these vulnerabilities, Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan prioritizes 109 coastal restoration projects, at a price tag of $50 billion. But, with 85% of Louisiana’s coast controlled by private landowners, others are looking to the private sector to support wetland restoration.
In September 2012, the American Carbon Registry approved a wetlands methodology that will allow landowners to quantify the carbon sequestered by restoration projects and then sell verified emissions reductions (i.e. carbon offsets) to voluntary offset buyers.
Entergy, a utility with 2.8 million customers in the Gulf and the company that invested $150,000 to help develop the wetlands methodology, has the right of first refusal on the Luling project and is planning to purchase some of the carbon offsets produced by the restoration work. The company sees wetlands as a kind of natural insurance that will buffer their infrastructure in an uncertain climate future.
– Keep reading.
Louisiana Wetlands: Why We All Need Them, And Why Oil Companies Aren’t The Only Ones On The Hot Seat
Author John Barry is best known for his eminently readable accounts of scientific advances, while humorist Harry Shearer is best known for his improv and voice acting skills. Barry, however, is also vice president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East, (SLFPAE) which was created after Hurricane Katrina to protect the east bank of the Mississippi River in the greater New Orleans area, while Shearer also hosts the weekly radio program Le Show on National Public Radio.
The SLFPAE is the levee authority that’s suing Chevron, Exxon Mobil and 95 other oil and gas companies over wetland degradation along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. In an interview with Shearer, Barry offers big-picture insight into the factors degrading the coast and driving the suit.
“We don’t blame the oil and gas industry for all of the land loss,” Barry says. “We do say they are responsible for some of the land loss. We’re just asking them to pay for the part that they’re responsible.”
– Read a summary of the Shearer-Barry interview here.
Note to California Lawmakers – Your Nexus is On Fire
California’s Rim Fire is officially the largest in history in the Sierra Nevadas, and it’s making San Francisco city officials a bit nervous. 2.6 million people in the city depend on the Hetch Hetchy reservoir for their water supplies, and the reservoir is now at risk of being clogged with ashes from the fire, which can either fall in or be washed in by later rains. So far the reservoir is safe, but officials are developing contingency plans just in case.
And yet, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes, at a state level legislators still seem oblivious to natural infrastructure risks like forest fires or declining snowpack. “Water policy leaders seem fixated on the big engineering fixes. The talk is of dams, tunnels and delta pumps, but ignores the upper watersheds and forests that are essential to making the entire California water and power system work,” writes Steve Frisch, president of the Sierra Business Council. “Investing in the state’s ‘free’ reservoir of snowpack and watersheds is the first step in a series of linked actions needed over the next 10 to 20 years to effectively address the state’s water needs.”
– Read Frisch’s opinion piece here.
Floodplain Conservation: Officially Worth It
A recent study by Resources for the Future, “Floodplain Conservation as a Flood Mitigation Strategy,” offers a cost benefit analysis of floodplain conservation along the Meramec River in St. Louis County, Missouri. The study evaluated conservation investments by looking at opportunity cost and avoided flood damages from maintaining the land as open space. The analysis concludes that benefits outweigh costs when avoided flood damages and property value increases are taken into account. Additionally, special targeting of conservation activities can increase net benefits. The study finds total property-related avoided damages to be $24.37 million per year, and the benefits from increased property values at an estimated $23.64 million per year. In comparison, annual opportunity costs of protected lands in the area were valued around $41 million.
– Learn more at Resources for the Future.
Illinois Law Gives Municipal Green Infrastructure a Boost
Earlier this month Illinois enacted a new law that will likely be a shot in the arm for green infrastructure. The new law allows municipalities to upgrade their storm water management systems by building and investing in green infrastructure, expands the list of green infrastructure solutions that can be implemented, and provides greater flexibility regarding the way these features can be financed. Green roofs, rain gardens, native planting and constructed wetlands can now be funded more aggressively with tax dollars.
– Read more at the Chicago Tribune.
Climate Change to Hit Coastal Cities Hard
A new study published in Nature Climate Change assessing flood risk in the world’s largest coastal cities estimates that flooding could cost cities as much as $1 trillion per year by 2050 – and US$60 billion per year even if risk doesn’t increase at all. Developing countries experience the bulk of the damages; among the top 20 cities with highest relative losses, only three are in developed countries. Estimates for the highest losses in 2050 include Jakarta in Indonesia, Alexandria in Egypt, Algiers in Algeria, and Barranquilla in Colombia. This is assuming current levels of defenses and an optimistic view of sea-level rise. The study also includes policy recommendations: investment in adaptation and preparation for larger floods and disasters by improving early warning systems and comprehensive insurance schemes for post-disaster recovery. It is estimated that on average adaptation will cost around US$350 million a year per city.
– Read a summary from Thomson Reuters.
– Access the article here (subscription/purchase required).
Dispatches from the Nexus
Earlier this month, a video from the International Union for Conservation on Nature (IUCN) and the International Water Association (IWA) was released, stemming from a series of workshops discussing the nexus between water, energy, and food policy and management. This first video is based on the “Nexus Dialogue” on Water, Energy, and Food that took place in Nairobi, Kenya. The premise of the conference is that all these sectors are intricately connected and a greater need for integrated management is required.
This is a particularly relevant issue for the region, where approximately 45 percent of slum-dwellers in Nairobi have no access to safe drinking water or food, and over 30 percent of Kenya’s population is food insecure. The “Nexus Dialogues” bring together high level private and public experts across Africa to create consensus on a nexus-based approach. Concrete project examples from the region are discussed, as well as national and international policy developments. Two other regional workshops are planned for Latin America and Asia. The first will take place in Bogotí¡, Colombia, in September and the second in Bangkok, Thailand, in November.
– Take a look here.
You Can’t Fight the River
Pierce County, WA has a bit of a flood risk problem. To meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) standards, the county would need to invest more than $300 million on levee and bank stabilization projects. A new report from Earth Economics examines whether a different strategy – one that stops “fighting the river” with levees and instead employs a mix of engineered solutions and green infrastructure – would get similar risk reduction benefits for a lower price tag. Through a series of case studies, Return on Investment Analysis of Flood Risk Management Solutions for Pierce County shows that “fight the river” approaches combine steep project costs with equally high lost ecosystem benefits, leading to total costs/lost benefits of $52-$408 million and $32-$433 million in two different cases presented. Meanwhile, in another example, using a softer approach – simply preserving open space as a buffer against flooding – added ecosystem values estimated at $52,000 to $2.7 million.
– Read the report here (pdf).
Green Jobs for Cleveland
Put $11 million into green infrastructure projects in Northeast Ohio, and you’ll get $23 million in economic activity and 219 new jobs, according to a new Green for All report. With the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), the City of Cleveland, and private investors all eyeing green infrastructure projects in the future, the study takes a look at direct and ripple effects of installing and maintaining all those bioswales and green roofs in the period from 2020 to 2024. That’s good news, but right now workforce development and training programs for all these future workers don’t really exist, say the authors – but an opportunity exists: “Green infrastructure jobs…represent future potential to create a workforce development program that can target specific populations with historic barriers to employment in the Cleveland area.”
– Read a post about the report.
– Get a copy.
Vietnam’s National PES Program Gets its First Report Card
In 2010, Vietnam launched a nationwide payments for ecosystem services (PES) program, building on the success of two provincial pilots. Users of key ecosystem services are required by law to make payments reflecting their usage of those services, based on sector-specific formulas. Funds go to provincial Forest Protection and Development Funds, which in turn administer payments to local ‘suppliers’ which can be individuals, households, or community groups.
A few years in, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has published a brief reviewing the performance of the new PES policy. Using semi-structured interviews and seminar meetings, the authors conclude that there’s some room for improvement. The good news: payments for watershed protection and landscape beauty are up and running, with the watershed services framework boasting the “most advanced legal setting.” Altogether VND 1,782 billion (US $85 million) of conservation finance has been delivered, with hydropower plant payments accounting for almost 98%, water companies for about 2% and tourism for 0.1%.
But forest carbon sequestration and forest aquaculture payments are stalled in the absence of clear guidance and institutional frameworks. What’s more, “only 46% of the total revenues collected to date” have been disbursed, and some “local communities have become discouraged… because they do not have legal status to enter into agreements.” The authors also note that the system for setting payment levels could be improved, high value areas should be prioritized, and that monitoring & evaluation needs a lot of work.
– Read a summary here.
– Read the brief (pdf).
Perth One Step Closer to the Bio-Dome
Earlier this month, Western Australia announced a new initiative to recharge Perth’s groundwater using recycled municipal and industrial wastewater. Public utility Water Corporation of Western Australia’s been trialling the process for three years and made it past 254 different health guideline requirements, and now they’ve gotten the full go-ahead. According to government officials, groundwater recycling would initially supply 7 million m ³ of water every year. Recharge efforts are expected to begin by 2016 but won ´t be completed until 2022.
“Groundwater replenishment will underpin Perth’s water security at a time of reduced rainfall. It adds another water supply option for the city, building diversity for the future and complementing other initiatives, such as desalination,” said state water minister Terry Redman. The area already has two large seawater desalination plants – which use twice the energy that wastewater recycling does.
– Get the full story here.
In India, Small is Beautiful
A watershed development project in tiny Khondla Village in Chhattisgarh may be blazing a new path for all of India, according to a new piece from Circle of Blue’s Choke Point: India series. Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation is working with farmers to promote improve irrigation systems and conserve water in the village. Participants in the 797,000 rupees (US $159,400) pilot have installed check dams, ponds, and channels to capture rainfall and let it infiltrate into groundwater. Their efforts are delivering higher agricultural yields and additional cash wages.
The locally-focused, low-overhead project stands in stark contrast to India’s tradition of top-down, highly centralized industrial-style development. That’s led to large strides in food security and economic development for the country, but “new data about static coal production, diminished economic performance, and rising state and federal deficits indicate that India’s development strategy is faltering while ecological havoc mounts,” Circle of Blue writes. “That is precisely what the water conservation project here in Khondla represents: a change from big to right-sized and right-priced for its context.”
– Read the full story here.
South Pennines Project Gets Out its Dance Card
A new report from Natural England gives us the latest on its South Pennines pilot, which is assessing multiple payment streams for peatland carbon, water quality, flood risk reduction, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services from an uplands landscape. The project developers note that their work “differs from more academic approaches…The research focuses on what is saleable, and how to measure it.” That means a hard-nosed look at potential revenue streams: like an estimated £38 per hectare for water quality improvements through agri-environmental funding and direct contributions from water utilities. Restoration of peatlands could net carbon revenues of £600/ha/year, or £10,000 per hectare via forward sales of carbon credits under a 30 year agreement. Biodiversity credits look a less likely prospect given low demand for blanket bog habitat credits. Interestingly, the authors note that the UK Woodland Carbon Code could help channel funding for flood risk mitigation via financing tree planting projects. Voluntary contributions for recreational services are even considered – a nearby scheme has netted upwards of £42,000 a year. All this data lets the authors develop a number of scenarios for bundling and stacking payment streams and assess their feasibility and relative benefits.
– Download the report.
How Much Does a Water Footprint Label Tell Us?
Are water footprint labels on your blue jeans or wine bottle right around the corner? UN-Water chari Dr Zafar Adeel tells the Guardian he thinks the practice could be commonplace in “five to ten years.” But Alistair Knox of the Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry wonders how useful that kind of labeling would be. Tracking water usage across modern supply chains ranges “from difficult to impossible,” he says. “Where do you draw the line? Say you get a delivery of raw materials to the factory gate and then you add the water footprint of the truck that delivered it, or the gas that powered the truck … It just becomes a bit crazy,” adds Simon Davidoff, senior director of strategy for industrial services at Siemens. Moreover, a volumetric product footprint doesn’t take context into account – like the relative contribution of water use impacts to water stress in a given region.
– Learn more about the debate over at the Guardian.
“Waste” Water Is No More in Saskatoon
The city of Saskatoon has a novel way of meeting its nutrient discharge limits: a brand new commercial nutrient recovery facility. The project is the first commercial plant of its kind in Canada. The facility uses a proprietary process to recover 75 percent of phosphorus and 10 percent of nitrogen from the wastewater stream. The recovered nutrients will be transformed into a slow-release efficiency fertilizer. The facility cost $4.5 million; besides its water quality benefits, it will produce 730 metric tons annually of fertilizer entirely made from renewable resources.
– Read more at WaterWorld.
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.
2nd International Conference on Ecosystem Conservation and Sustainable Development
Environmental degradation, particularly climate change, is augmenting the impact of natural disasters, thus seriously affecting food security ensured through the sustainable production of agricultural crops, livestock and fisheries. Sustainable development is a certain compromise among environmental, economic, and social goals of community, allowing for wellbeing for the present and future generations. Designing appropriate policies and strategies that lead to conservation of natural ecosystems and biological diversity and ecologically sustainable development in the era of climate change is not an option but a necessity. ECOCASD 2013 will be a rendezvous of those researchers and academicians working on cutting edge areas of ecosystem management and sustainable development and is a platform to share innovative ideas on ecosystem conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation and sustainable development. 3-5 October 2013. Kerala, India.
– Learn more here.
5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration
The SER2013 World Conference on Ecological Restoration: Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future will bring together more than 1,200 delegates from around the world interested in the science and practice of ecological restoration as it relates to natural resource management, climate change responses, biodiversity conservation, local and indigenous communities, environmental policy and sustainable livelihoods. 6-11 October 2013. Madison WI, USA.
– Learn more here.
Peoples, Land, and Water: The Natural Connection
Land and water has always been the immediate surroundings of peoples in all existences and continents. It has always been the base on which Man depends on for his existence. Land serves as home, a nutrient-filled and agricultural base, a thoroughfare, a religious base, et cetera. Water is all important beginning with the human body made up of water, water also serves as nourishment, used for cooking and the rivers, streams and oceans are home for very many habitats necessary for life. Wars have been fought to protect and preserve land and water space meaning that they are fundamental resource for human survival. Prevailing civilizations and epochs are chronicled with the effects these constituents have on human life. The conference therefore would like to explore these great connections from the humanities, science and social science perspectives. The hope of the conference is to discuss the interconnectedness or relatedness of these three theatres of life for existence/ living and chart a model or value system for the preservation of the resources and sustainable use by the human society. Deadline for Abstracts is October 6th! 3-6 November 2013. Contonou, Republic of Benin.
– Learn more here.
Sustainable Water Management Conference
Presenting solutions for balancing the benefits of conservation with the costs, managing infrastructure, developing robust supply models and watershed management plans, water reuse, resource management, green infrastructure and more. 30 March – 2 April 2014. Denver CO, USA.
– Learn more here.
Director of Finance and Operations
Conservation International – Virginia, USA
The Director of Finance and Operations provides financial and operational management for the Moore Center for Science and Oceans Division with a focus on budget oversight and development, financial monitoring and operations (including human resources, administrative resources and legal services) for the Science teams within the division. The position directly manages an annual budget of over $15 million. The Director of Finance and Operations provides guidance on financial and operational strategy to the division’s leadership team as well supporting the 40+ staff members on the Moore Center team. The director will also advise on resource allocation and prepare complex financial analysis to ensure the division’s long term financial sustainability.
The director ensures compliance with CI and donor legal, accounting and reporting standards, provides financial analysis, fundraising support and oversee the internal compliance of operational policies and procedures in the division. S/he will effectively participate as an integral team member, participating in and/or leading projects and initiatives (i.e. process improvement, cross-divisional proposals, project management and implementation etc.). S/He provides direct value-added expertise to the SVP on operational processes and manages and leads projects as assigned.
– Learn more here.
Valorando Naturaleza – Washington DC
Ecosystem Marketplace’s Spanish language sister site is seeking a part time program assistant. The position will run for an initial 4 month contract, beginning as early as September 2013, with potential for extension.
Ecosystem Marketplace, a project of Forest Trends, is a leading source of news, data, and analytics on markets and payments for ecosystem services (such as water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity). We believe that by making accessible information on policy, finance, regulation, science, business, and other market-relevant factors, payments and markets for ecosystem services will one day become a fundamental part of our economic system, helping give value to environmental services that, for too long, have been taken for granted.
Valorando Naturaleza launched in March 2013, and like the Ecosystem Marketplace, produces original news articles, news briefs, and aggregates content for daily news, a resource library, regional events and opportunities related to ecosystem services. For more information, visit www.valorandonaturaleza.org.
– Learn more here.