This Week In Water: Dispatches From Katoomba

Ecosystem Marketplace returns from Katoomba XVIII in Beijing full of stories, podcasts and videoblogs on the meeting that focused on forests, water and people.  Upon returning, EM turns its attention to new White House guidance on water investments and an innovative wastewater treatment wetlands project in the Colorado Delta.  

Ecosystem Marketplace returns from Katoomba XVIII in Beijing full of stories, podcasts and videoblogs on the meeting that focused on forests, water and people. Upon returning, EM turns its attention to new White House guidance on water investments and an innovative wastewater treatment wetlands project in the Colorado Delta.

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

Greetings Water Loggers!

4 June 2013 | We’re back from Beijing after the 18th Katoomba meeting held earlier this month. With a focus on the links between forests, water, and people, we were spoiled for choice in covering the conference. Check out the ‘EM Headlines’ section in this newsletter for a selection of stories from the meeting – including  podcasts and videoblogs  of meeting participants sharing experiences, the latest on a  new source water protection effort for Beijing, and pieces giving you  background on what’s been happening in China  and opportunities for  South-South learning  on watershed investments.

We also had the pleasure of coming home to an inbox full of good news on watershed investments around the world. On the policy front, in the US, new White House guidance  directs federal agencies to consider ecosystem services impacts in funding decisions for water infrastructure – which could be a very big deal for nature-based solutions. And the European Commission just released  an ambitious new strategy  to promote green infrastructure over traditional grey infrastructure options.

South of the border,  an innovative wastewater treatment wetlands project  is improving water quality, providing wildlife habitat, and increasing flows in the Colorado Delta region. We also have coverage of  Coca-Cola’s efforts to go water neutral  and  new research  that’s convincing dam operators in Latin America to take a second look at the importance of cloud forests.


For those of you with your toes in other markets, our latest State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets report just launched. We’ve tracked 4% global growth in voluntary demand for offsets and a 34% leap in the European markets. You can  learn more and get a copy of the report here.

Or just go ahead and dive on in to this month’s water news. And remember that we love hearing from you – if you have a tip on an exciting new project or policy development (or even some bad news), don’t forget to  send it our way.  

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


K-XVIII Dispatches: Making PWS That Are Financially Viable, Environmentally Effective, And People Friendly

China’s Miyun Reservoir provides drinking water for more than 20 million people in one of the world’s great metropolises, Beijing. But its core challenges aren’t much different than those of other waterbodies located in places like Ecuador, Peru, or the United States. At Katoomba XVIII, participants from countries around the world shared their insights on interventions that support local communities in their efforts to protect water supplies. Here, we offer a sampling.


  • Christo Marais (Working for Water – South Africa)  on investments for water and poverty alleviation in South Africa  (PODCAST)
  • Maria Theresa Vargas (Fundacion Natura Bolivia) on “cheap, easy and successful” reciprocal agreements for water in Bolivia (PODCAST)
  • Cy Jones (World Resources Institute – USA)  on what not to do in designing a watershed intervention  (VIDEOBLOG)
  • Mark Kieser (Kieser & Associates – USA)  on comparing the cost-effectiveness of watershed protection actions at a project site in Peru  (VIDEOBLOG)
  • Lucí­a Ruiz (Ministry of Environment of Peru) and Marta Echavarrí­a (EcoDecisií³n) on common challenges faced by project developers in Peru, Ecuador, and China  (VIDEOBLOG)


   – Get access here.


New Guidance for Federal Water Investments Includes Ecosystem Services Approach

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the US recently released an updated version of the 1983 Principles and Guidelines on Water and Land Related Resources Implementation Studies that includes an ecosystem services approach to the evaluation process for federal water resources investments. The new guidance broadens its scope to cover eight federal agencies rather than the previous four, and  instructs agencies to  assess ecosystem services outcomes – rather than just economic ones – and promotes a watershed-level approach to decision making.  

With a new Water Resources Development Act also in the works in Congress that would finance at least half a billion dollars’ worth of water infrastructure projects over five years, the new guidelines could be a big deal – if they’re followed.  

   – Learn more at Ecosystem Marketplace.
   – Read the proposed guidance here (pdf).


Can Katoomba XVIII Help The Miyun Reservoir?


On the hour-and-a-half drive to the Miyun reservoir from Beijing, you can’t miss all the trees. Recently-planted seedlings – mostly deciduous, with neatly painted white trunks – grow in orderly rows, stretching for miles, filling every spare patch of ground in the countryside. Trees have been planted in old agricultural fields, along the banks of rivers, and even in dried-up riverbeds.  

Beijing spends about $64 million each year to protect its water supplies, but as water levels in the reservoir continue to drop, many are asking if there are ways to spend that money more strategically. At  Katoomba XVIII, more than 200  participants  from all over the world  spent three days by the Miyun reservoir, comparing notes on how to build a better watershed compensation model, and to make recommendations for project developers at Miyun.


   – Keep reading.


ADB Water Boss Courts Private Buyers For Chinese Water Markets


China is the world’s largest investor in watershed protection, with nearly $7.5 billion spent in 2011 on restoring and safeguarding the country’s water supplies at their sources.  But unlike in other countries, virtually 100% of China’s investments come from the government. Looking elsewhere in the world, there aren’t many good corollaries when it comes to the Chinese model of ‘eco-compensation’. In many respects, it’s uniquely Chinese.  

That’s why Zhang Qingfeng’s presentation this morning was so intriguing.  


Zhang, Lead Water Resources Specialist with the ADB, took the stage to make the case for opportunities for public-private partnerships in China on eco-compensation projects.  Businesses, he said, are perhaps better positioned to play a role in eco-compensation in China than at any time in the past.  Meanwhile, the government could begin to “shift from buyer to enabler,” creating supportive market infrastructure but stepping back from directly funding projects. But will the private sector step up?


   – Get the full story.


From Kenya To China: The Spread Of Innovative Water Solutions


Green Water Credits  were first used in 2007 in Kenya’s Tana River Basin, and in many ways they laid the groundwork for WWF’s ground-breaking payments for watershed services now underway in the  Lake Naivasha watershed. They work by compensating upstream farmers for incorporating soil and water conservation activities into their farming, and their use has since spread to Morocco and Malawi.  In 2012, the concept spread even further, when China picked it up with plans to implement it in the Yangtze River – China’s longest and most economically important tributary.  


South-South learning – this type of sharing of experience and best practices – was a major focus earlier this month at the Katoomba XVIII: Forests, Water and People meeting in Beijing. In this article, Ecosystem Marketplace takes a look at three countries with high-level representation at Katoomba – China, Peru, and Ghana – and considers what they might learn from each other.


   – Get the full story here.


China Uses Market-Like Mechanisms To Promote Reforestation Of Sloping Lands

Until the middle of the last century, Fuzhou, China enjoyed regular flows of clean water from the Min River. But that began to change with the advent of urbanization in upstream cities like Sanming and Nanping, and with deforestation in hills surrounding those cities. This brought irregular flows of dirty, unsanitary water to Fuzhou. Now the city is paying roughly $800 million annually to each of those cities. The money is used to administer regional water management programs that encourage farmers to reforest the denuded hills and implement sustainable land-use practices.  


It’s all part of the Min River Watershed Water Resource Protection Eco-Compensation Program – one of several uniquely Chinese efforts to promote healthy watershed stewardship on a grand scale. Like dozens of Payments for watershed services (PWS)-also known as investments in watershed services (IWS)-programs underway across the world, China’s eco-compensation programs aim to tap the flexibility of markets to promote responsible and cost-effective watershed stewardship.  


Unlike those other efforts, however, this one has the heft of China’s powerful central government behind it. That’s made it possible for them to achieve unrivaled scale – to the point that China accounted for 91% of watershed investments in 2011, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of Watershed Payments 2012 report. This one country almost singlehandedly generated all of the $ 7.46 billion in watershed transactions that came out of Asia that year.  

   – The full story is at Ecosystem Marketplace.


In The News


EU Unveils a New Green Infrastructure Strategy

The European Commission announced an ambitious new strategy for green infrastructure earlier this month. The strategy aims to better integrate the array of EU policy areas (like regional development, climate adaptation, agriculture, and waste and sanitation) to find opportunities to choose “green” over “grey” infrastructure. What that will look like in practice remains to be seen, but with the Commission reviewing Member States’ spending plans in the coming months, the strategy has its first chance at being put into action. The Commission also aims to establish a new financing facility by 2014 for investing in green infrastructure and biodiversity projects.

   – Read a press release from BirdLife International.
   – Download the strategy (pdf).


Compliance: The Means, Not the End

A new paper from IIED explores the monitoring and evaluation components of designing a payments for watershed services project. In particular, the authors of Monitoring payments for watershed services schemes in developing countries consider the relationship between compliance monitoring and how well projects acheive their environmental goals. Interestingly, “a high degree of compliance does not necessarily ensure that a scheme is effective.” In other words, the wrong interventions can lead to a poor outcome, no matter how faithfully participants adhere to their contracts.  

   – Read an abstract and download the paper.



In Mexico, One Man’s Wastewater is Another Man’s Wetland Paradise

In the long-suffering Colorado River Delta, the Las Arenitas sewage treatment plant in Baja California offers good news. The sewage plant, which serves nearby Mexicali, now uses a constructed wetland to treat wastewater that the plant had previously been unable to handle. The nutrient-hungry wetland filters out pollutants and has become home to local and migratory bird species displaced from their home in the Colorado delta, where wetlands have virtually disappeared. Downstream, the introduction of much-needed water has doubled the flows of the Rio Hardy. Those flows are what initially attracted NGOs  Pronatura Noroeste  and the  Sonoran Institute  to the project. Plans for additional wetlands are already in the works.

   – National Geographic NewsWatch has the story.


Flagstaff Kicks Off Voter-Backed Fire Risk Management in its Watersheds

After a 2010 wildfire consumed 15,000 acres of forest, and the floods that followed damaged nearly 50 homes – at a total response cost of up to $140 million, city officials in Flagstaff, NM began publicly pushing for forest treatment to minimize wildfire risk and protect the city’s water supplies at their sources. Voters approved (with 74% in favor) a $10 million bond issue for the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). Now the FWPP is getting started on its first restoration projects in two forested watersheds around the city, covering 11,000 acres. Thinning and prescribed burns will mitigate the risk of future catastophic fires, say officials. “The important point is what it costs for us to mitigate after a flood and fire vs. what it costs to thin [and] reduce that threat,” Art Babbott, member of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, told a reporter for the Arizona Daily Sun.

   – Learn more here.


Anhui-Henan Pollution Payment the First Province-to-Province Eco-Compensation Effort in China

China’s first state-level transprovincial eco-compensation program saw its first transfer payment made in April, when Henan Province sent 4 million (648,824 U.S.dollars) to neighboring Anhui province for remediation after polluted water from Anhui reached the city of Bozhou downstream in Anhui.  


Officials say that cross-provincial transfer payments offer a new avenue for addressing widely dispersed environmental problems. “Rules for tackling pollution issues within a given jurisdiction have been a roadblock when trans-regional pollution occurs,” said Xu Xuhai, deputy chief of Anhui’s provincial environmental supervisory bureau. On the other hand, compensation payments alone won’t address China’s pressing water issues without regional frameworks for addressing pollution and better environmental enforcement.  


The Henan-Anhui  agreement resembles an existing program between Anhui and Zhejiang province, wherein Anhui committed to compensating Zhejiang if pollution levels downstream increased, but would receive a payment from Zhejiang if it managed to improve the quality of water flowing to Zhejiang.

   – Keep reading at Xinhua News.


Coca-Cola Throws the Kitchen Sink at Water Risk – And It’s Working

By the end of this year, Coca-Cola will be replenishing 42 percent of the water the company uses. It’s doing so through a range of interventions in watersheds around the world – conservation, improved agricultural practices, investments in local water funds, or planting trees – choosing whatever makes the most sense locally. And it’s measuring outcomes all along the way with natural capital accounting methods. These approaches can lower production costs (for example, by using forests rather than treatment facilities to filter water) and brand the company as a good citizen in the community.  “Maintaining that social license to operate is priceless,”  Denise Knight, sustainable agriculture director for Coca-Cola, told Bloomberg BNA. The company aims to reach a 100% replenishment rate for water used in its finished beverages by 2020.

   – Keep reading.


Making the Case for Cloud Forests to Dam Operators

A recent paper examining the importance of cloud forest protection to tropical dam operations finds that ” while cloud forests only cover 5% of the watersheds that contribute water to tropical dams, they filter around 50% of the available surface water” flowing to dams. With one-fifth of global energy deriving from hydropower, that makes a pretty compelling case for protecting these key ecosystems. The study, carried out by Leonardo Sí¡enz, now of Conservation International, mapped about 20,000 dams in tropical areas against cloud forest maps to estimate cloud forest cover in dam areas and surface water availability. Findings are now being used to support the development of payments for watershed programs in Colombia, where dam operators are beginning to understand that, as Sí¡enz  puts it, “there is an opportunity to generate more energy through the protection of critical cloud forests.”

   – Read a summary of Sí¡enz’s study.
   – Read the full paper.



Integrated Agua Solutions

The water sector has great challenges ahead. Climate change, population growth and urbanization make it necessary for water experts to face these challenges and show leadership by starting to innovate water projects on flood protection, efficient water use, improve sanitation, and, above all, to bring truly integrated water solutions into practice.  Shanghai CHC Expo wants to highlight these inspiring total solutions and will present the world’s most outstanding water projects at the special event Integrated Aqua Solutions, which will currently be held with AQUATECH China water show during June 5-6, 2013 in Shanghai. IAS-2013 is aim to demonstrate the global water sector’s ability to meet the challenges of both the “small water cycle” (i.e. projects by utilities, industries and cities) and the “big water cycle” (i.e. projects in river basins, watersheds and even national and international projects). It is also a unique exposition for water authorities, developers, consultants, engineers, and contractors to draw the world’s attention to their contribution bringing the global water problems one step closer to a solution. We hereby cordially invite you to join IAS-2013 with us, and call for international institutions or organizations extensively to engage in communication in depth for the most stunning water projects worldwide through the platform of IAS.  5-6 June, 2013. Shanghai, China.

   – Learn more here.


Ecosystems for Water and Energy: 13th Annual American Ecological Engineering Society Meeting

The 13th Annual American Ecological Society meeting focuses on the theme of Ecosystems for Water and Energy. As the complexities of the problems affecting world growth and sustainability are uncovered, it is becoming increasingly clear that it is impossible to consider water or energy in isolation from each other. It takes energy to treat polluted waters and producing and transferring energy frequently requires a clean source of water. More researchers and engineers are exploring and even implementing ecologically-engineered solutions that concurrently address both water and energy problems. For example, biomass production for bioenergy has the potential to either improve of degrade water quality – depending on agricultural practices. Anaerobic digestion has the potential to be combined with ecosystems, such as treatment wetlands and algal ponds, to both produce clean energy and reclaim wastewaters. Hosted by Michigan State University. 10-12 June, 2013. East Lansing MI, USA.

   – 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.





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