This Week In Water: Watershed Investments Top $8 Billion Annually

Water news ranging from the creation of a "storm panel" in New York City to discuss natural infrastructure investments for protection against the next Sandy-style storm, to a growing payments for watershed services project in Tanzania signal 2013 may be a good year for the water sector. Also, Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of Watershed Payments 2012 report had its live launch in DC last week.   

Water news ranging from the creation of a “storm panel” in New York City to discuss natural infrastructure investments for protection against the next Sandy-style storm, to a growing payments for watershed services project in Tanzania signal 2013 may be a good year for the water sector. Also, Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of Watershed Payments 2012 report had its live launch in DC last week.

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

29 January 2013 | Judging by the contents of this newsletter, 2013 is going to be a good year for water. We have story after story about cities and organizations pushing ahead new natural infrastructure projects and policies that build resilience, protect water resources, save money, and look good while they do it.


It’s been an exciting month here at Ecosystem Marketplace, too: last week we launched our new “State of Watershed Payments 2012” report, tracking investments in watersheds around the world. We found twice as many active programs as in our last report, and a $2 billion increase in annual investments in 2011. We hope you’ll take a look at the report (you can do so by clicking here) and as always we welcome your questions and feedback.


If you’re in the DC area, tonight we’re hosting a launch event for the report at the World Bank. Stop on by if you’re in town! Event details can be found here.


Happy reading,

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


Watershed Investments Topped $8 Billion in 2011, While Active Programs Doubled in Number


The number of initiatives that protect and restore forests, wetlands, and other water-rich ecosystems has nearly doubled in just four years as governments urgently seek sustainable alternatives to costly industrial infrastructure, according to a new report from Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace.


“Whether you need to save water-starved China from economic ruin or protect drinking water for New York City, investing in natural resources is emerging as the most cost-efficient and effective way to secure clean water and recharge our dangerously depleted streams and aquifers,” said Michael Jenkins, Forest Trends President and CEO. “80 percent of the world is now facing significant threats to water security. We are witnessing the early stages of a global response that could transform the way we value and manage the world’s watersheds.”


The report, State of Watershed Payments 2012, is the second installment of the most comprehensive inventory to date of initiatives around the world that are paying individuals and communities to revive or preserve water-friendly features of the landscape.


Get further coverage at Ecosystem Marketplace.
Read a blog post about the report at Forbes, “The $8 Billion Bargain.”
Download the report.

Tanzanian Water Utility Taps PWS To Keep Water Flowing


In 2010, a Tanzanian water utility became the first investor in a Payments for Watershed Services (PWS) program designed to promote sustainable agriculture in the hills surrounding the city of Tanga. “The PWS project in Tanga is basically an inexpensive alternative to an investment in a more expensive treatment plant,” says Tanga Chairman Raymond Mhando. “But it should also improve food security and income security for farmers, so it’s a classic win-win.”


Mhando’s decision to champion the project and court local buyers like Tanzania Breweries is a trend we’re seeing more commonly in developing PWS projects. Domestic companies can not only make decisions more quickly, but they have long term investments in the region, whereas multinational companies can shift production elsewhere at a low cost and back out of a partnership and their role as a buyer. Tanzania Breweries would arguably make a better buyer than Coke or Pepsi because those companies could easily switch production to another location while Tanzania Breweries can’t.


Keep reading at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Water Funds Can Promote Gender Equality, But Not Without A Nudge



Volcanic soil covers the paramo – the high, treeless plateaus along the Northern Andes of Ecuador. This black dirt acts as a sponge that absorbs rain and glacial thaw, then releases it through battered irrigation canals to the thirsty land below.

Men own the land above; they own the land below. And for centuries they have battled for their share of the water. But battles are turning to cooperation with the advent of water funds, innovative financing mechanisms employed by downstream water users to promote upstream land conservation.


“The notion of a water fund is that anyone who contributes becomes a member, so anyone (male or female) has a voice and vote,” says Susan Poats, an anthropologist who is working to create a water fund in the El Angel river watershed near the northern border of Ecuador and Columbia. The notion, she adds, appears simple. Turning it into reality, however, has been anything but.



Get the full story here.

In The News


NYC Storm Panel: More Natural Infrastructure Before the Next Sandy


A “storm panel” convened by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to make recommendations for preparing for future storm events like Hurricane Sandy has called for a range of natural infrastructure investments, according to a draft version of the study obtained by the New York Times. Recommendations include restoring oyster reefs along the city’s coastline and creating a dune system, in tandem with a more diffuse electrical generation grid and improving transport and fuel distribution systems. Many of the panel’s recommendations echo those already proposed in the city’s Vision 2020, a waterfront plan for the city that calls for, among other things, restoring the natural shoreline to buffer storm surges and improve water quality.


The Nature Conservancy’s CEO Mark Tercek, a member of the “storm panel,” writing in an op-ed at Huffington Post lays out the vision for natural infrastructure in and around NYC. “The Commission’s recommendations recognize that a capital investment in natural coastal systems is cost-effective, provides permanent protection, offers significant co-benefits and is an essential part of a solution,” he writes, “which will ultimately be the right mix of natural and built approaches.”


Learn more at the New York Times.
Read Tercek’s post, “Investing in Nature in a Post-Sandy World.”

IUCN’s Announces an EPIC New Project

The argument that healthy ecosystems can reduce the risk of damages in the event of natural disasters is starting to reach the ears of decision-makers in many places. Now the IUCN is setting out to demonstrate that argument conclusively. Its new ‘Ecosystems Protecting Infrastructure and Communities’ (EPIC) project will work in six countries to demonstrate how conserving ecosystem services is a smart climate adaptation and disaster planning strategy. Case studies in Chile and Nepal (avalanches), China and Nepal (landslides), Burkina Faso and Senegal (droughts and floods) and Thailand (coastal hazards) will provide empirical evidence and lessons for future planning.

Learn more.

Introducing the Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standard

A renewable energy portfolio standard, where utilities are required to gradually scale up their investments in clean energy, has worked well all in places all over the US. So why not try it with green infrastructure? American Rivers, working with The Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, has done just that. A new Green Infrastructure Portfolio Standard guide was just released by the group, which walks utilities through the process of setting and meeting a standard to install green infrastructure like permeable pavement and rain gardens that can capture and filter polluted stormwater. A goal of just 1% increase in green infrastructure can translate into huge benefits over time, say the report’s authors.

Read more and download the report at American Rivers.

Serbia Cracks Open the PES Door


New laws in Serbia may be opening the door to payments for ecosystem services (PES) in that country, according to a new report from WWF. Under the Environmental Protection Act, Serbia has adopted a “user pays” principle to natural resources and set fees for the use of those resources and some environmental services. Still, there’s work to be done, says WWF’s Maya Todorova. “Unfortunately the report found that although legislation is favourable, the current laws do not regulate the investment of the collected fees. What this means is that the money is not invested back into the conservation of ecosystems and the improvement of ecosystem services”. But in a world where policy barriers often stop PES programs dead in their tracks, it’s a good development nonetheless.


Read more at WWF.

Stuck at Home with the Flu? Perfect!

Two water quality workshops hosted by the US EPA, the World Resources Institute, and the Water Environment Federation back in November are now available on the web. Topics included an introduction to trading and its potential as a tool to meet clean water standards, as well as a deeper dive into some of the more technical issues involved in designing trading programs and potential new markets, like stormwater. Stream the webcasts and browse presentation handouts to get the latest or just get familiar with these markets.

Access the webcasts here.


New South Wales Caps Instream Buybacks

Saying that concerns about potentially negative knock-on effects of water buybacks are being ignored, Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) Government moved last week to place a cap on buybacks permitted in its portion of the Murray-Darling river system. Caps limit buybacks to 3 percent per valley per decade. The NSW Primary Industries Minister says that buybacks hurt rural communities when agricultural production slows down as a result of irrigators selling their water to the Commonwealth, which purchases water rights and then effectively retires them, leaving the water instream to restore ecological health. Hodgkinson says the national government’s promises about funding water infrastructure projects as part of the buyback plan have been slow to materialize. Murray Darling Basin Authority Craig Knowles counters that a number of infrastructure projects are in the pipeline and the cap is unnecessary.

Read more at ABC News.
Get the story at Yahoo News.

Qatar to Recharge Aquifers with Its Own Recycled Water

Qatar is developing a demonstration project that will recharge the country’s declining aquifers with treated wastewater. Overextraction for agriculture coupled with very low rain recharge has led to falling water table levels in the country. One appeal of recharging the country’s aquifers is security; much of Qatar’s water comes from desalinization plants which are vulnerable to an event like an oil spill off the coastline. Treating waste water also only costs a quarter of what desalinization does. A similar effort has already been successfully implemented in nearby Kuwait.

Keep reading at Water World.

DC Water Hopes More Green Will Cost Fewer Greenbacks

Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially gave a thumbs-up to Washington DC modifying its Clean Rivers Project in order to include more green infrastructure. DC Water plans to demonstrate green infrastructure strategies to deal with stormwater runoff in the District over the next eight years. DC has spent more than $3.5 billion on treatment facilities under the Clean Rivers Project so far, and still can’t meet water quality standards under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a set of water quality standards set in 2011 that act as a sort of pollution ‘cap’ on the Bay watershed. Looking at even more spending and probable rate increases, DC Water has turned to green infrastructure, hoping cost-effective natural installations will help the utility to scale down spending on engineered works.

Learn more at Green Risks.

Iowa Utilities Opens Clean Water Funding to Watershed Investments


In Iowa, utilities will now be able to spend part of water user fees on protecting water at its sources – in streams, rivers, and lakes – rather than just on utility plant improvements. Under the new program, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will lower interest rates for utilities borrowing from the state clean water revolving fund for source water protection efforts that complement plant improvements. Rate payers don’t see their rates rise but they essentially “get two projects for the price of one,” according to Radio Iowa. “The idea is to create this new funding source for practices that protect water quality in streams, rivers and lakes. And it’s a unique funding source because it’s using revenues from the sewer systems of cities and other utilities to finance projects in the watershed,” says Patti Cale-Finnegan of

the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. About $15 million will be available each year, says Cale-Finnegan.


Read on at Radio Iowa.


“Feeding The World: Accelerating Global Collaboration on Food Security”, Amsterdam


Twelve months on from The Economist’s inaugural Feeding the World summit, a high-level audience will gather in Amsterdam to discuss how to accelerate progress in coordinating efforts to tackle the planet’s food security crisis. Industry leaders, Government ministers, donors, aid agencies and representatives of the research community will explore opportunities to collaborate in delivering improved nutrition and sustainable agricultural markets. 30 January 2013. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Learn more.

The Water-Food-Energy Nexus Live Debate

The Guardian and SABMiller bring you a day of online debates discussing how to achieve inter-connected action on water, food and energy. Register to watch a day of online debates discussing how to achieve inter-connected action on water, food and energy on 6 February from 11am – 4pm (GMT). Virtual. 6 February 2013.

Learn more.

The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus


Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies has recognized a clear need for new approaches which address the inter-connections within the water, energy and food security nexus. In order to develop these integrated solutions, 4th IDSAsr International seminar is being organized under the auspices of Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies. This seminar will put a nexus lens on the three action fields while focusing on better understanding the inter-linkages between the three securities. Further, the discussions will focus on identifying enabling conditions which facilitate the transition to a greener economy. The seminar will provide a space for discussion, interaction, dissemination of information to policy-makers, water managers, academics, students and the public in general. 8-10 February 2013. Amritsar, India.


Learn more.

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.

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.


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