As degraded watersheds drag California into its sixth year of drought, a new law makes forests, farms, and fields eligible for infrastructure funding – and the state is hardly alone, according to new research by Ecosystem Marketplace, which shows a dramatic surge in payments for watershed services across the United States and around the world.
From the report's Foreword:
Experience shows that when paired with traditional infrastructure, natural infrastructure—wetlands and forests—can reduce water management costs and deliver other cultural and economic benefits coveted by twenty-first century communities, like recreational green spaces and fish and wildlife habitats. For many communities, the biggest challenge to adopting these green approaches is understanding how to finance and implement them. Fortunately, a handful of projects across the country offers helpful insights to landowners and managers, utilities, and community groups.
I wanted to alert you to a new report from River Network about water policy and management of water security and instream flows. While the report focuses on Southeastern Rivers, the way they approach the topic can be very instructional for the issue of instream flow policy for any region. I recommend taking a look to consider how stream flow is being impacted by climate for your waters (drought, flood, withdrawals, etc,) and consider adaptation strategies for your region for enhanced water security. The weblink and details are below. River Network would like to support outreach and policy action on stream flows. If you're interested, I recommend contacting Katherine Baer at River Network to discuss the possibilities.
The announcement of new guidance from the White House Council on Environmental Quality requiring agencies to consider climate change as part of their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews caused a stir in the climate community. However, the implications can be challenging to convey to individuals less involved with the ins and outs of federal policy.
Climate Access asked a select group of climate leaders - Oil Change International’s David Turnbull, Sierra Club’s Liz Perera, and Earthjustice’s Raul Garcia - to reflect on the new guidance, the key takeaways to communicate, and opportunities for public engagement. Here’s what they said.
The Draanjik River region extends from the Yukon Territory into an undisturbed wildland that includes 2.4 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The vast, pristine region includes watershed tributaries of the Yukon River and encompasses the traditional territories of the Draanjik and Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in. In a world where nature is increasingly diminished and threatened by human activities, the Draanjik is that rare place with room to breathe. It looks today much like it did at the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago.
The Hydrologic and Water Quality System (HAWQS) is a web-based interactive water quantity and quality modeling system that employs as its core modeling engine the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), an internationally-recognized public domain model. HAWQS provides users with interactive web interfaces and maps; pre-loaded input data; outputs that include tables, charts, and raw output data; a user guide, and online development, execution, and storage of a user's modeling projects. https://epahawqs.tamu.edu/
Global costs reach $5.4 billion US annually
WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
A new global study has found that one in three large cities spend 50 percent more on water treatment costs as a result of damage to the ecological quality of their watersheds.
This study found that urban source watershed degradation is widespread globally, with 9 in 10 cities losing significant amounts of natural land cover to agriculture and development in the watersheds that supply their drinking water. This has led to polluted water and an increase in water treatment costs that represent a liability in excess of $100 billion US (net present value).
"This increase in cost matters because increases in water-treatment costs are paid for by those living in cities, so watershed degradation has had a real cost for hundreds of millions of urbanites," said Rob McDonald, lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy's Global Cities program.
Urban water treatment costs rise when the water quality at the source of a city's drinking water is affected by how the land in the watershed is used. Intact forests and other natural ecosystems protect water quality in a way that farms and residential neighborhoods cannot.
"Estimating watershed degradation over the last century and its impact on water-treatment costs for the world's large cities," was published July 25 in the peer-reviewed journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and coauthored by McDonald, his fellow scientists Tim Boucher and Daniel Shemie from The Nature Conservancy and colleagues from Yale and Washington State universities.
As the world grows more urban - with more two-thirds of the world's population expected to live in cities by 2050 - and climate change drives droughts and water shortages, protecting drinking water for city residents will be an increasing challenge for municipal leaders.
This study demonstrates the critical role that nature can play in ensuring clean, safe drinking water with an analysis of new global data about the sources of cities' drinking water and information about population growth and land use change over the period of 1900-2005.
"City leaders can use our findings to advocate for protecting their drinking water from contamination, rather than spending billions of dollars to clean it up" McDonald said. "Cities can protect their watersheds and avoid treatment cost increases by planning for sustainable development that considers impacts on natural systems."
The Nature Conservancy works with cities and companies globally to protect and restore drinking watersheds via a sustainable strategy known as "water funds." Water funds connect urban residents with the protection of the sources of their drinking water upstream and create the conditions for cities to invest in urban source watersheds.
"For city leaders looking to secure their water supply, water funds offer a mechanism to partner with upstream communities and invest in the rivers, forests and other ecosystems we all depend on for clean water," said Shemie, Strategy Director for The Nature Conservancy Global Water Funds program.