This Week In Water: When Risk Becomes Reality

Forest Trends is participating in The Peruvian Ministry of Environment’s Peru Watershed Services Incubator’s clinic this week to discuss hydrology, economics and social issues with national agencies and institutions. Hurricane Sandy spurs water and climate risk talks while a former New York environmental Commissioner explains how natural infrastructure helped NYC’s drinking water supplies weather the storm. 

Forest Trends is participating in The Peruvian Ministry of Environment’s Peru Watershed Services Incubator’s clinic this week to discuss hydrology, economics and social issues with national agencies and institutions. Hurricane Sandy spurs water and climate risk talks while a former New York environmental Commissioner explains how natural infrastructure helped NYC’s drinking water supplies weather the storm.  

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

12 November 2012 | Greetings! This week, the Forest Trends team is participating in a clinic in Peru on watershed protection mechanisms and benefit sharing. The clinic, organized by the The Ministry of Environment of Peru (MINAM) and its newly minted Peru Watershed Services Incubator, is the first opportunity for leaders and experts from national agencies, institutions, and projects in the Incubator’s portfolio — as well as those from other projects in Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico — to meet, share experiences, and work through specific issues including hydrology, economics, and social issues


The Incubator was developed with the support of Forest Trends and key partners such as CONDESAN, EcoDecision, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The Incubator has been busy since its launch in May: it’s supporting a decision-making framework for Lima’s water fund Aquafondo, a pilot to address sedimentation in the Jequetepeque watershed, and capacity building for a compensation for watershed services scheme in Moyobamba. Look for a write-up next week on Watershed Connect.

In the meantime, enjoy your monthly roundup of water news. It’s no surprise in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in the US that water and climate risk are hot topics, but it’s not just on the eastern seaboard of the US. We’ve selected the best of the latest reporting on water insecurity around the world, from the factories of China to the forests of Kenya to the streets of Lorca, Spain, where excessive groundwater pumping triggered a deadly earthquake.

Not to fear – we’ve got solutions, too, including a survey of water utility execs on how they plan to meet to challenges, watershed payments improving food security in Kenya, and an article from New York’s own former environmental Commissioner, Al Appleton, on how the Big Apple’s drinking water supplies weathered the storm thanks to natural infrastructure.

— The Ecosystem Marketplace Team

For questions or comments, please contact [email protected]

EM Headlines


Hurricane Sandy Highlights Need To Develop Green Infrastructure


For many, Hurricane Sandy was a sobering reminder that climate change is here to stay, and we’d better start preparing for it. In New York City, that’s meant a recent debate over whether or not to build sea gates off the New York shore. But in the weeks and months ahead, expect to hear more about the need to revive the planet’s once reliable “green infrastructure” – and, in New York’s case, that means replenishing the salt marshes that once acted as natural surge protectors, restoring the wetlands that once provided water filtration and flood control, and righting the rivers and streams that once dealt so effectively with stormwater runoff.


New York City has already taken steps in this direction. Over the past two years, it launched both an ambitious green infrastructure plan aimed at rivers and streams, and a wetlands strategy aimed at salt marshes and wetlands.


Read more at Ecosystem Marketplace.

Collapse in Three Steps: An Ecologist’s Take on the US Elections


This year’s election came and went without much discussion of the environment. And leadership during this last presidential and congressional term didn’t address many equally as important issues — including energy and climate policy as well as soils and water resource issues. Unfortunately, not taking action is essentially making a decision to do nothing. Historically, three environmental factors have had the potential to take down entire civilizations: soil nutrient depletion; prolonged, severe drought and weather; and epidemic disease. The remedies – all closely linked to our agro-ecological system – are vital. So why aren’t we talking about them in political forums?


Keep reading.

A Cliff’s Notes for Climate Change


Climate change attacks water supplies and agriculture while making life easier for opportunistic bugs and vermin that spread disease. It attacks, in other words, the very foundation of our economy, yet the cost of dealing with it, has gotten short shrift in the media – largely because the science is always complex and often impenetrable.


That’s why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) distilled all known research on the impact of climate-change into a 600-page document called Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). Now, to make the material more digestible, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) has broken the SREX down into 40-page summaries. Managing Climate Extremes and Disasters for Ecosystems examines the impact of climate change on the planet’s living ecosystems.


Get an overview at Ecosystem Marketplace.

New Method Could Help Communities Plan For Climate Risk


Climate scientists cannot attribute any single weather event — whether a drought, wildfire or extreme storm — to climate change. But extreme events, such as Hurricane Sandy, are glimpses of the types of occurrences the world could be more vulnerable to in the future. As the devastation left by Sandy continues to reverberate, decision-makers at every level are asking: How can we be better prepared?


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a new tool to help policymakers, city planners and others see the possible local effects of climate change. Its regional projections of climate trends — such as long-term temperature and precipitation changes — allow local planners to evaluate risks, and how these risks could shape crops, roads and energy infrastructure. “Policymakers don’t like extremes or worst-case scenarios,” Strzepek says, “because they can’t afford to plan for the worst-case scenarios. They like to see what is the likelihood of different outcomes. That’s what we’re giving them.”


Learn more.

In The News


Can China Afford Its Own Growth?


Circle of Blue researchers spent two months this summer in China, visiting eight provinces in an effort to understand the complicated relationship between the Chinese economy, its people and political officials and the environment. The world has watched the country’s tremendous growth in recent decades, and the resulting widespread degradation of air, water, and land resources that’s kept pace. But missing from that narrative, say the authors of the Choke Point: China series that’s resulted from their trip, is the fact that “what happens in China…does not stay in China.”


Chinese policy has gotten a lot greener – the latest five-year plan prioritizes environmental issues, particularly water – but the authors wonder whether it will be enough: “The world is witnessing a run on resources that, arguably, is unmatched by any country, ever…Though authorities in Heilongjiang and elsewhere in China told us that the central, provincial, and municipal governments have begun to address environmental safety in earnest — and to some extent they have — we also found that the result of China’s unquenchable thirst for growth is tantamount to a water-wasting, resource-depleting, pollution free-for-all.”

Read more at Circle of Blue.

Water Utility Execs Say Reforestation Key to Securing Future Water Supplies

A new report, Water for All?, from Oracle Utilities and the Economist Intelligence Unit presents findings from a survey of water utility executives from ten developed and developing countries around the world, asking about key issues in meeting future water demand. Over half say they think demand could outstrip supply by 2030, while drought and water pollution top the list of the biggest risks utilities face. Two other statistics caught our eye: a third cite climate change as a major worry, and executives in both developed and developing markets say that that reforestation is the most promising strategy they know of to ensure adequate future supplies. Bizarrely, despite respondents’ emphasis on natural infrastructure investment , the authors themselves don’t mention it once. Guess old habits die hard.

Read a press release at Environmental Leader.
Download the report (you’ll need to register).

Groundwater Pumping Triggered Deadly Lorca Earthquake, Scientists Say

In May 2011, an earthquake in the city of Lorca, Spain killed nine and damaged more than twenty thousand buildings. Now scientists have published a study showing that the quake was likely caused by groundwater over-extraction. Water tables in one basin in the area have fallen 250 meters in just fifty years, stressing a nearby fault line. Lead scientist Pablo Gonzalez of the University of Western Ontario stressed that Lorca was just “a single particular case” but suggests a need to look harder at how human activities can trigger seismic events, including “dams, aquifers and melting glaciers, where you have tectonic faults close to these sources.”

Read more from the BBC.


In Virginia, Private Bank Stakes a Claim in the Nutrient Trading Game

E&E profiles a new phenomenon in water quality trading: the rise of the for-profit nutrient bank. At Cranston’s Mill Pond in Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Land Trust (CBNLT) and Restoration Systems LLC have restored a 50-acre impoundment to generate credits for the James River Basin’s nutrient market. The project has generated 752 credits, which are being marketed at $19,000 each.


Business has been slow – they’ve sold eight pounds so far – but the project developers are hopeful that demand will pick up as new development appears in the state. They’re also courting the US military, which could be a big buyer. “It’s a risk, but it’s an educated risk,” says Brent Fults, CBNLT’s managing partner.


Decision-makers are also starting to come around to trading. Jeff Corbin, EPA’s senior adviser for the Chesapeake Bay and Anacostia River, says he’s glad to see the private sector putting in sorely-needed capital for Chesapeake Bay cleanup. “Right now, the biggest question is how are we going to pay for it?” Corbin said. “So when I see people saying, ‘We’ll do it as long as we can turn a profit on it’ — what’s not to support about that?

Read the full story at E&E news.

Lake Naivasha PWS Participants Seeing Improved Food Security, Gender Equality Benefits

The idea that payments for watershed services (PWS) might be a useful tool for improving livelihoods is not a new one, but supporting evidence is still a bit slim. In the Lake Naivasha basin in Kenya, the Equitable Payments for Watershed Services (EPWS) program recently carried out a study to see whether a payment mechanism was delivering livelihood benefits to local farmers. Upstream landowners receive regular payments from major water users in the basin to implement soil and water conservation techniques, agroforestry, and sustainable livestock management. Preliminary findings suggest that PWS is working: participants reported improved food security, higher incomes, and gender equity in enjoying these benefits.

Read a summary of the study at the PRESA blog.

Payments for “Brewshed” Services Does Sound a Little Less Stuffy

You heard it here first: breweries are the undisputed private-sector leaders in watershed investments right now. We’ve already reported on Big Sky Brewing and Deschutes Brewery offsetting their water use by funding instream flow restoration projects. Now in Fort Collins, New Belgium Brewing is teaming up with The Nature Conservancy and Colorado State University’s Colorado Conservation Exchange (CCE) in support of a project on nearby Campbell Creek to keep sediment out of the downstream Poudre River, which supplies the city with water. “We support a proactive approach to preserving nature’s ability to provide these services while leaving our natural landscape intact,” says Jenn Vervier, New Belgium Brewing’s sustainability director. CCE is also working on demonstrating ways to reduce nutrient pollution at the Sylvan Dale ranch in Loveland.

Get the full story at the Coloradoan.

Assessing the True Costs of Kenyan Deforestation


Kenya’s forestry and timber sectors bring in about $15 million a year. But deforestation costs the country $68 million annually, according to a new report from the Kenya Forest Service and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Role and Contribution of Montane Forests and Related Ecosystem Services to the Kenyan Economy quantifies the true cost of deforestation on a national scale, following an earlier valuation of the contributions of the Mau Forest Complex. “Kenya is today underlining its determination to be among a group of pioneering countries putting its nature-based assets at the center of its sustainable development ambitions,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.


Some of the biggest impacts are to hydrological services. Kenya’s five largest montane forest areas supply 75 percent of the country’s water, but more than 28,000 hectares have been cleared in those areas between 2000-2010, imperiling an already water-insecure economy.

Read more and download the report.

New York’s Got 99 Problems, But Water Ain’t One

Anyone with a television or internet connection couldn’t miss New York City’s devastation last week after Hurricane Sandy. But as Al Appleton, former Commissioner of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, points out in a new article he co-authored on Huffington Post, the city’s drinking water supplies came through in good shape. That’s because New York City has invested in an extensive watershed protection program, securing its water supplies at their source in the Catskill mountains. It’s already a model for watershed investment to secure day-to-day drinking water – but New York can also offer lessons for resilience in the face of catastrophic events: “The New York City example offers revealing lessons about how to preserve the integrity of our water systems in the age of superstorms,” say the authors. “Investments in innovative public water systems are a top priority, not their abandonment.”

Read the full article here.



Chinese Partnerships & Events Coordinator


Forest Trends – Washington, DC

This position is a 3-month temporary assignment with potential for extension into Spring 2013. The Chinese Partnerships & Events Coordinator will be able to commit 30-40 hours a week throughout the contract and must be able to travel for a period of up to 3 weeks. The Chinese Partnerships & Events Coordinator’s primary focus will be the coordination of a study tour for a delegation of Chinese government officials from the Beijing Parks and Forestry Department (BPFD), which will take place in November-December 2012. In addition to providing the delegation an introduction to American culture and strengthening the relationship between Forest Trends and the BPFD, the study tour will serve to introduce the Chinese delegation to best practices and innovative approaches in the US to issues relating to urban forestry, including: forest carbon sequestration, cultivating urban ecosystems for stormwater management, forests and park management, drinking water source protection, and eco-compensation (payments for environmental services).


Learn more.

Land Management and Ecosystem Services Scientist


Center for Ecology & Hydrology – Wrexham, England

The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is the UK’s Centre of Excellence for research in the terrestrial and freshwater environmental sciences. The UK landscape is under increasing pressure to provide for food, energy and water security. The provision of ecosystem services at local landscape to regional and national scales is increasingly recognised as crucial to land management policies across the UK. CEH has a substantial, but distributed, research portfolio in land, water and biodiversity and the ecosystem services they deliver.

CEH has recently been awarded a major contract to provide a scientifically-rigorous approach to the monitoring and evaluation of the Welsh countryside and specific agri-environment measures. We seek a senior scientist with experience in land management and ecosystem science to contribute to the integration of data resulting from a wide range of survey and research activities and provide strategic direction in developing research into sustainable land management practices covering extensive and intensive systems. The focus will be on developing a framework for quantifying ecosystem services from the local to national scale and exploiting the major National Capabilities, such as Countryside Survey, agri-environment experimentation, survey and monitoring. The post will provide leadership towards greater integration of our broad portfolio of sustainable land management and ecosystem service activities across CEH and the NERC community in general.


Learn more.

Intern – Media and Communications Strategy


Western Resource Advocates – Colorado, USA

Founded in 1989, WRA is a non-profit environmental law and policy organization. WRA’s mission is to protect the West’s land, air, and water. Our lawyers, scientists, and economists: 1) advance clean energy to reduce pollution and global climate change; 2) promote urban water conservation and river restoration; and 3) defend special public lands from energy development and unauthorized off-road vehicle travel. Under the supervision of the Communications Manager, the Media & Communications Strategy Intern will assist with a variety of communications tasks including but not limited to: Developing media relations strategies, significant work on energy issues, production and maintenance of new and unique communications tools, expansion of WRA’s online and social media presence, and production and maintenance of communications to supporters, donors and potential donors. Applicants should have a strong interest in communications and nonprofit work; should be creative and unafraid to try new things; and should abhor a cliché while always seeking a different and fresh approach to problems and opportunities.


Learn more.


American Water Summit: Business Models for the Future


In today’s world of constrained resources and limited capital, there is a tremendous need to think creatively and implement smarter models for doing business in the water sector. We are already seeing the impact of new, smarter technologies and innovative project delivery models, but how much further can we go? A 21st century water sector should embrace and reward best practices, and tomorrow’s water leaders must be connected, creative and unafraid to question and improve upon the old paradigms for doing business. The American Water Summit is the foundation for this successful water future. An agenda-defining event with the intimacy and openness of a boardroom meeting, the Summit brings together the leaders from public and private sectors to make connections and lay the groundwork for the future of water. 14-15 November 2012. Chicago IL, USA.


Learn more.

IV International Conference for Payments for Ecosystem Services: Impact Assessment and Socioeconomic and Environmental Monitoring


Due to its strategic importance in the development of initiatives and public policies related to PES in the region and the country, the State of Sí£o Paulo (Brazil) was chosen to host the IV International Conference on Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) which will be held from November 26 – 29, 2012 in the city of Sí£o Paulo. The central theme of the IV International Conference is “Impact assessment and socioeconomic and environmental monitoring.” The scientific program includes lectures, talks, thematic sessions (with time for oral presentations) and poster presentations based on five thematic areas: (i) institutional arrangements; (ii) impact monitoring; (iii) legal aspects; (iv) financing initiatives; and (v) mobilization of actors. 26 – 29 November 2012. Sí£o Paulo, Brazil.


Learn more.

13th International Conference on Wetland Systems for Water Pollution Control


Treatment wetlands are now a well established technology. There are several thousand wetland systems treating municipal, agricultural and industrial wastewaters in North America and Europe and a rising number of systems treating point source and non-point source pollution globally. These wetland systems have a wide variety of engineering designs, wetted areas, flow rates, influent and effluent quality, hydraulic properties and monitoring requirements. The information from this operational treatment experience can be used to form design guidelines for wetland systems. Research is necessary in areas of system longevity, pollutant removal process dynamics and system modelling. The major aim of the Conference is to bring together researchers and professionals to discuss new developments and exchange experiences in the field of constructed wetland systems. The Conference will highlight the latest improvements and achievements in the treatment of urban storm water runoff, domestic and municipal wastewaters, agricultural and industrial effluents. 25-29 November 2012. Perth, Australia.


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.


Learn more.


Ecosystem Marketplace is a project of Forest Trends a tax-exempt corporation under Section 501(c)(3).The non-profit evaluator Charity Navigator has given Forest Trends its highest rating (4 out of 4 stars) recognizing excellence in our financial management and organizational efficiency.

Please see our Reprint Guidelines for details on republishing our articles.

Additional resources

Please see our Reprint Guidelines for details on republishing our articles.