Third School for Reciprocal Watershed Agreements/Escuela Acuerdos Reciproco por Agua

Escuela de AraFundacion Natura Bolivia will continue its successful Escuela Acuerdos Reciproco por Agua  (ARA) (School for Reciprocal Watershed Agreements).

The intensive six-day workshop seeks to inspire leaders in the Latin America region to expand and multiply the development of ARA.  This year, two schools will be offered in August and October.

Read more about the experiences of a participant in the first Escuela de ARA on Valorando Naturaleza here: http://www.valorandonaturaleza.org/noticias/_intercambio_de_experiencias_sursur_uniendo_comunidades_cuenca_arriba_y_cuenca_abajo

Download the invitation to the workshop –  Carta invitación 3era. Escuela Acuerdos Reciprocos por Agua - and the application form - Formulario de aplicacion a la 3era Escuela de Acuerdos Recriprocos por Agua.


The Water Initiative is Hiring!

The Water Initiative is hiring for two new positions.

Program Associate – Water Initiative

Forest Trends is seeking a Program Associate to join the Water Initiative’s small team and international network of partners in our mission to scale up effective models of investments in watershed services.

Roles and Responsibilities:

1. Support efficient and responsive program planning, implementation, and adaptive management, with an emphasis on demonstration activities, including through:

  • Contributing to identifying and refining strategic objectives with initiative team and partners;
  • Translating objectives and opportunities into clear and actionable workplans, in collaboration with partners;
  • Preparing contracts and sub-grant agreements to executive activities;
  • Maintaining regular communication with partners to track project progress, identify additional support or course changes needed; and ensure follow-through on deliverables;
  • Assisting in providing targeted technical or program support to project partners;
  • Gathering material from partners for project reports, lessons learned summaries, grant reporting and other products;
  • Evaluating progress against initiative objectives; and
  • Reporting on operational and budgetary progress, both internally and to donors and other stakeholders.

2. Support day-to-day organization and administration of the Water Initiative, including preparing and coordinating regular program meetings and reviews;

3. Coordinate and participate in site visits, workshops, side events, and webinars with international partners and experts;

4. Contribute to the preparation and production of program reports, newsletters, blogs, publications, and presentations for public, partner, and stakeholder audiences.

5. Assist with research and analysis on technical and policy issues; and

6. Contribute to fundraising efforts for the Initiative, including through grant writing and preparation.

Incubator Program Associate

The Incubator program is seeking a part-time Associate to support the development of program featuring payments for ecosystem services in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The Associate will join a small team of practitioners supporting programs inspired by leading thinkers in the areas of climate change mitigation and watershed conservation. Working with the Associate Director for Project Management and Finance, the incumbent will facilitate transactions that align the interests of private sector, policy makers, and civil society.

Roles and Responsibilities

1. Build relationships with local partners in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, facilitating the planning and implementation of work plans, workshops, etc. Communicate regularly with partners to track project progress, identify additional support or course changes needed, and ensure follow-through on deliverables;

2. Review work products and recommend follow up actions;

3. Assist in providing targeted technical or program support, either directly or through other FT staff or advisors;

4. Contribute to reports, publications, and presentations for public dissemination

5. Support proposal writing and grant reporting processes

6. Support contract management and other administrative functions as needed.


Social Impact Assessment Workshop in Peru

The village of Huamantanga, Peru, was the site of a Social Impact Assessment workshop in early May.  Located about 4 hours upstream from Lima and about 3300 meters above sea level, this community will be the site of one of Aquafondo’s pilot projects to assess the effectiveness of natural infrastructure interventions.  The workshop was facilitated by Oscar Maldonado, hosted by Aquafondo and attended by representatives from Forest Trends, AQF, and the Natural Capital Project.

A view of the community of Huamantanga.

A view of the community of Huamantanga.

The overall objective of the workshop was to design a way to measure the social impacts of this IWS project that was also linked to the assessment of the hydrological impacts.  Following on the the SIA workshop and publications from last year, project participants worked to identify potential positive and negative impacts of the IWS intervention and how to measure these impacts.  Consideration of these impacts is being put at the core of the project design.

Rossi Taboada from Universidad San Marcos, facilitating one of the small working groups from the community.

Rossi Taboada from Universidad San Marcos, facilitating one of the small working groups from the community.

Based on the recommendations for monitoring developed at the workshop, Aquafondo will complete the monitoring plan by reviewing objectives and indicators to ensure that they both fit with the project design and are in line with community expectations and monitoring interests.  Aquafondo’s other partners in this initiative – The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Capital Project – will assist with obtaining baseline data before monitoring begins.  As part of the Water Initiative’s broader objective to develop a manual for including social impact assessment in design and implementation of IWS projects, the community workshop will be written up as a case study, which will be completed by September.”

Oscar Maldonado, workshop facilitator, dancing with a young Huamantangina in a small ceremony organized for the group’s departure.

Oscar Maldonado, workshop facilitator, dancing with a young Huamantangina in a small ceremony organized for the group’s departure.


Huella Hidrica/Water Footprint: International Seminar


Suizagua Andina Peru (a project of SDC) is holding an international seminar in Lima on May 26th from 8:30 AM – 4:15 PM Peruvian time.

The seminar will also be streamed online at: http://www.suizagua.org/#invitacion.

Language of the seminar will be Spanish.


Who Cares About Water Articles on Ecosystem Marketplace?

11345573736_83dc972152_oWater was a hot topic in 2013 as companies became more aware of their water risks, nations struggled with drought and other water crises, and water pollution continues to endanger people, agriculture, and ecosystems. Ecosystem Marketplace tracks all of these stories, acting as a one-stop shop for people interested in news about water and water markets.  So who cares about water – and what do they care about?

 In 2013, readers were interested in learning more about classic examples of water-related ecosystem services markets, like New York City’s revolutionary project to protect its drinking water. They also learned more about the basics of watershed markets, seeking out articles on the scale and basic structures of the water trading market. In addition, summaries of reports showing how ecological value should be included in economic assessments drew readers.

In addition to the basics, readers also sought to learn about newer watershed payment schemes in the region, from a USDA initiative to protect the endangered Mississippi River Basin to a water trust set up to restore water flow in the Colorado River.  On-the-ground examples of using ecological value to assess the true cost of environmental degradation or economic value rounded off the selection, with readers seeking to learn more about the true cost of water pollution from new fossil fuel development in Arkansas and Alberta and how to finance wetland restoration in the Gulf Coast through engagement of business stakeholders with high water-related risk.

Coming up next time… a look at water readership on Valorando Naturaleza, the Spanish-language version of Ecosystem Marketplace.

The Top 9 Water – Related Articles on Ecosystem Marketplace

  1. Ecosystem Services in the New York Watershed

  2. Watershed Payments Topped $8.17 Billion in 2011

  3. A New Strategy to Improve Water Quality One Targeted Watershed at a Time

  4. Charting New Waters – SOWP Report

  5. Water Trading: The Basics

  6. Arkansas Oil and the High Cost of Dirty Water

  7. New TEEB Report Integrates Wetland Value and Economic Policy

  8. Building a More Resilient Gulf

  9. In the Colorado Delta, a Little Water Goes a Long Way


IWS Workshop: Focus on Kenya and Ethiopia

During the last week of March, representatives from IWS projects across Africa came together in Kenya to explore the potential for payments for watershed services in Kenya and Ethiopia. The workshop built on groundwork laid at last year’s Katoomba China event in May,and was an opportunity for attending water professionals to gain insight into IWS projects and to begin thinking about how these concepts could be applied in their watersheds. A full list of participants is available at the end of this post.

The workshop was part of SDC’s broader effort to recognize and develop synergies between their funded projects.  “The Swiss government in SONY DSCcollaboration with the University of Bern has been supporting water quality monitoring for years in these two countries, so there’s a lot of long-term monitoring data and a solid foundation of work with communities to resolve water supply conflicts in Kenya and to conserve soil and water in Ethiopia via landscape restoration.  “The opportunity we have now,” according to Phil Covell, who helped to facilitate the workshop on behalf of Forest Trends, “is to see how economic transactions between downstream water users and upstream land managers can sustain and reinforce these efforts.”

The Workshop

After an introduction of the context and challenges of the Kenyan and Ethiopian watersheds on the evening of the first day, the second day got down to the nitty gritty of IWS.  The morning session began with introductions to IWS and the efforts of SDC to provide better linkage between the water initiatives it supports. For the rest of the morning, case studies from across Africa – and lessons learned – were presented before an afternoon Safari.

A common theme that emerged from the case studies was the importance of the shift in nomenclature from payments for watershed services to investments in watershed services.  “When we first decided to refer to investments in watershed services for the Scaling Up project,” said Phil, “it was a new thing. When I emphasize the term ‘investments’ now, practitioners of this kind of project appreciate the difference and tell us that the terminology is really meshing well with what we are beginning to understand about how to make projects successful.”

South Africa’s Working for Water (WfW) program is one case that is making the switch from the payment to investment mindset.  WfW started as a way to provide jobs while also meeting the ecological objective of removing invasive species from the nation’s waterways.  While the project is widely viewed as a success, Mark Botha of the WfW program recognized some of the weaknesses of current design, including that the focus on jobs creation (payments) has taken away from achieving strong watershed objectives.  To solve this problem, Botha described the paradigm shift that will start to happen – the shift from payments to investment, jobs to livelihoods and professions, and public works funding to water revenues.

The same message was apparent in the presentation from the joint WWF/CARE program in Kenya.  Adoption of the improved management practices was increased when the land interventions were combined with access to higher-value crops – ones that would allow farmers to increase production and income over both the short and longer term.  Whe farmers see the payment from the project as an investment in their farm and long-term livelihood ability, they are more likely to participate in the program, than when they see the payment as a payment in return for not doing their own farming processes.

Working Sessions

After the case study presentations were over, attention shifted to working out feasible plans for IWS in the Kenyan and Ethiopian watershed projects.  Each group was tasked with three steps:

  1. Stakeholder identification and institutional mapping

  2. Identification of possible sellers and buyers

  3. Rapid feasibility assessment and design issues

Ewaso Ngiro Basin – Kenya

The Ewaso Ng’iro Basin covers an area of 838,472 square kilometers and faces increasing population pressure.  As the population grows, vegetation is cleared, water demand increases, and pastoral land is degraded.  As the water crisis increases, competition and conflict has increased between stakeholders. In addition, the refugees from the military conflict in nearby Somalia contribute to the growing population.  Combined with increased precipitation variability as a result of climate, the area has a high potential for water conflicts.

According to the working group, the catchment area is too complex for a classic downstream compensating upstream scenario.  The primary goal identified was to increase base flows, with secondary goals of achieving sediment and nutrient load reductions.  The regional water authority already collects tariffs from the municipalities that goes to fund some watershed management.  While it’s not enough to make substantial investments, the money currently funds some of the farmers’ cooperative and water committees addressing the problem. It was suggested that this fund (the Water Service Trust Fund), as well as the NET fund, are already existing mechanisms that could be adapted to support a range of IWS interventions within the region.

Bringing in some of the lessons from the case studies presented, the working group advocated a “Nike Approach” (Just Do It!) in implementing small scale action where conditions can quickly and noticeably be improved. These successes could then be demonstrated and used to socialize the concept of IWS and to increase funds. The importance of socializing the idea of IWS before project implementation was also emphasized by Robert Gakubia of the Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB) during his opening remarks for the workshop.  Engineer Gakubia stated that other PWS systems in Kenya lack expertise and knowledge in order to encourage stakeholder investment, so a critical mass needs to be developed that will mainstream the concept of IWS and the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems.


The situation within the Ethiopia’s Abbay Basin is yet more dire.  The Eastern Nile supplies 85% of the main Nile flow, yet is threatened by serious land degradation which has effects both within Ethiopia and for downstream countries. In Ethiopia, erosion has resulted in reduction of agricultural productivity and increased poverty. Downstream, siltation and flooding have become urgent problems, with both Ethiopia and Sudan spending large sums of money to remove silt from hydroelectric dams.  Recognizing this problem, a partnership was formed between universities in Ethiopia and Switzerland to monitor and engage in the proposed development.

The working group proposed one model of an IWS system that would see the Ethiopian Power Authority purchasing environmental services through an addition of IWS charges to the electricity tariff. These funds would then be transferred to upstream communities and land users.  Rather than taking a “Just Do It” approach, the Ethiopian working group recommended first generating empirical evidence to support project proposals, including: amount of siltation and cumulative implication on hydropower production, impact on agricultural productivity, and costs and benefits of implementing an IWS system.

Moving forward, SDC and Forest Trends will continue to support the development of both of these IWS proposals, serving as technical and management advisors.  The group of actors brought together for this workshop will also begin to form the nucleus of the regional hub of watershed expertise that the Water Initiative hopes to develop in each of the regions we work in.

Full List of Participants

List of Resource Participants


Establishing the Linkages Between Forest Cover and Precipitation in Ghana

The conversation about ecosystem services in many ways revolves around forests.  Forests provide carbon sequestration benefits, support biodiversity, reduce erosion, filter water, to name just a few.  One ecosystem service that often gets overlooked is forests’ ability to create or maintain microclimates.  Models of the Amazon forest predict that a significant decrease in precipitation as forest cover decreases and runoff increases, with that freshwater lost to the ocean, rather than be returning to the atmosphere above the forest through evapotranspiration, later to return as precipitation.  As the hydrological cycle in the region is disrupted, overall precipitation levels can decrease, dramatically changing the climate.

Rainfall and Forests in Ghana

Understanding whether this relationship holds true in other regions can be an important tool in demonstrating the values of forest.  The Nature Conservation Research Centre, the Water Initiative’s partner in Ghana, commissioned a study to examine this relationship. Rebecca Asare, West Africa Coordinator of Forest Trends Incubator for Ecosystem Services, explained, “The reason we did the study was because our strategy in Ghana, from a policy and institutional perspective, is to underscore the importance of forests, to have another iron in the fire for our arguments.  Ghanaian decision makers are getting better at understanding the carbon value of the forest, few people understand how it’s important for climate.  In Ghana, agriculture is cocoa, oil palm, and food crops. If you lose your forest, then theoretically you’re losing rainfall as well.”

As we continue to develop new models of investments in watershed services, the ability to empirically connect precipitation events with forest or other land cover will open up a whole new avenue for investments.  Redefining watershed services in this way would be a radical contribution to the approach, since water availability as a result of precipitation is often thought of as beyond our control, changing only due to larger weather variation. “This kind of study is strategic in Ghana, because water is relatively plentiful, but there are concerns for the longer term availability of water”, said Phil Covell. “We want to draw out the relationships between the agricultural sector, rainfall, and hydrological services. The agricultural sector mainly relies on rainfall, so the question is whether we have enough evidence to justify a form of compensation for forest restoration and protection based on this relationship.”

The Approach

Because accurate precipitation data was not available, the researcher, Dr. Alexandra Morel of Oxford University, used cloud cover as a proxy for rain events. Using satellite data from 2004-2012, cloud frequency (how many clouds there were) and cloud initiations (where and when the clouds started).  By overlaying the cloud data on a land cover map, a correlation between cloud presence and land cover could be examined.  Because cloud cover also depends on a number of other variables – including time of day and year – results were averaged over the study period for each month.

Final_report.pdf   Google Drive

And the results were…

On average, the research showed that cloud frequencies are consistently higher over forested areas throughout the year.   However, a detailed look also showed some important variations.  First, the transition from coast to land plays an overwhelming role in cloud initiation.  Many more clouds formed in the forested coastal regions than in non-forested coastal regions; but this difference disappeared in the inland regions.  Intuitively, this result makes sense – the coastal soils and sands are warmer than the intact forest, so cloud cover forms as the prevailing winds push air from the coast towards the land.

Looking at cloud frequency – how much of the time cloud cover is there – rather than cloud initiation, inland forested areas did have slightly more clouds than the non-forested inland areas, despite no different in cloud initiation rates.  The clouds seem to be sticking around longer, which, by extension, could mean that they are producing more precipitation.

Where’s the tipping point?

Although the study has its limitations, the work clearly shows that the remaining patchwork of forest present in coastal Ghana plays an important role in local cloud patterns and freshwater availability.  “The forest reserves across the country were carved out by during the colonial era for watershed protection – they’re relics of the British government,” said Rebecca. “Our partner, Professor Yadvinder Malhi, pointed out that the British almost couldn’t have done a better spatial distribution of forest reserves. It’s almost like the way they fall across the landscape is the perfect distance before you start losing rainfall generation power. From one forest to the next is near perfect spacing in order to maintain rainfall generation across the landscape.”

Despite the patchiness of the forest cover, this study suggests that they are doing their job of maintaining the rainfall of Ghana. However, if this optimal spacing is lost and the forests are degraded, precipitation could decrease, threatening Ghana’s economy.  The question that should be on everyone’s tongue is, “What’s the tipping point?” As projects like the Water Initiative work to stress the economic value of forests, studies like this one provide more firepower for the argument for using financing mechanisms to pay for conservation of our forests – whether protecting colonial-era forest reserves or investing in best management practices on farms.


Moving Towards a Shared Vision of the Future

Ghana’s Pra River winds its way southward from the Kwahu Plateau to the Gulf of Guinea through cocoa farming plantations and forests prized for their timber. Despite receiving quite a lot of rainfall each year, the Basin will face water stress in the coming years.  Together with our partner in Ghana, the Nature Conservation Research Centre, the Water Initiative is working to build an institutional movement towards IWS.

In the Ghanaian context, the key to success is investing in the process of building institutional support. “We are very much invested in a process as opposed to an outcome,” said Rebecca Asare. “That’s critical because we feel strongly that to work with all the stakeholders in a sustainable way, we need to approach it differently than the classic model of the international NGO coming in with the plan already in place. We’re very much invested in the process that builds a sense of collective progress and work, so that hopefully there’s a higher chance that the work will go forward and be integrated into national institutions, even if the project funding dries up.”

In building the case for IWS in the Pra and Kakum Basins, the working group is following a five step process. The draft of the third step – articulating the desired state – has just been completed.

Desired State

“When we first started this, our first question was if we could even do this in Ghana. It clearly came out that there was lots of opportunity here,” said Rebecca. “We looked at who we felt were the key management stakeholders for the basins, and that became our original core group of about five or six institutions and they have worked with us as we’ve tried to articulate the desired state.”  The first step to this process was completing an assessment of the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario.

Business as UsualMining

The Pra and Kakum River Basins face many problems, but the key problems in the region are the declining water quality and the presence or threat of illegal gold mining. Some disagreement also exists over the amount of available water in the basin. While one study reported that available water was about 2,300 m3/person/yr, the actual availability is less than 1,680 m3/person/yr, below the water stress index set by the UN. Looking into the future, water pollution challenges will be driven primarily by population and industrial growth.


One of most important results of the BAU development was identifying the gaps in knowledge. “There were still questions that we couldn’t answer with the stakeholders and information that we had, so we had to revisit that [in the desired state report] and broaden to include some new institutions like the Water Research Institute and the Ghana Meteorological Agency,” said Rebecca.  The gaps identified in the first round of BAU assessment include:

  • Sources of lead and other heavy metal contaminants

  • Costs associated with water treatment

  • Total demand and needs of upstream users for water

  • Realistic projections of population growth and increased water demand in metropolitan areas

Vision for the Watersheds

In ten years, under a Payment for Water Services (PWS) mechanism, the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Area (STMA) and/or the Cape Coast-Elmina Metropolitan Area (CCEMA) could expect to furnish domestic and industrial water users with clean water, an increased and steady flow, and, in collaboration with WRC and other partners, healthy and productive watersheds that support long-term water demand, rural enterprises, and livelihood choices.

Desired State: How To Get There

Developing a statement of the desired state for the basins was a two-step process. The project working group (made up of representatives from key institutions) brought in the authors to put together a draft of the desired state for comment.  According to Rebecca, “That’s the best way to work on it here. No one has the time. To give people a draft to look at and then respond to is more successful. After the draft was done, the working group started adding more detail – it’s more of a living document.”  Within the report, the Working Group has identified four strategic goals to improve water quality, flow and quantity goals:

  1. To ensure a healthy and functional ecosystem with adequate green infrastructure to facilitate effective groundwater recharge, filtration of pollutants and sediments, and enhance the resilience of the watershed to climate change impact.

  2. To ensure that the basin yields adequate raw water in a form that can be utilized by the respective users.

  3. To ensure a sustainable financial mechanism that supports cost-effective clean water production and improved livelihoods.

  4. To strengthen human and institutional capacity to carry out IWRM in the watersheds.

These goals, and the specific objectives within them, are the start to laying out the critical path for IWS in the region.  The process of laying out the critical path has identified a number of additional gaps that need to be addressed before the implementation phase can begin. “In the pathway that we are starting to imagine, we have to ask ourselves, what are the obstacles and roadblocks and how can we identify them. As we do this together, the Working Group will have a more realistic sense of what we can achieve and what we want to achieve,” explained Rebecca. The next meeting of the Working Group will start to work on this step.

One of the identified gaps is the lack of a central coordinating mechanism to help the different actors in the watershed work together in an

Institutional Landscape of the Desired State

Institutional Landscape of the Desired State

effective and coordinated manner. That includes the multiple institutions involved in water management throughout the basin and the districts, municipalities, and regional governments.  A second gap, demonstrated in the BAU work, is the lack of sufficient monitoring and high quality data.  Although the institutions have formal monitoring strategies in place, examining ways in which other low-cost monitoring methods could be implemented to fill in the data gaps is important. The third piece of the puzzle is then the actual design of the IWS fund.  The fund could utilize existing payment structures such as the Water Resources Commission’s Water Management Account, which already collects some abstraction fees from water users to use for investment projects. However, for the fund to be successful, it may require some autonomy, and transparency and accountability will have to be paramount. “The fund currently operates to support various goals,” said Phil Covell, “so it’s difficult for payers to understand how the fees that are paying related to watershed conservation”.for this fund to be successful, transparency and accountability standards need to be put into place. Hopefully, one of the benefits of the program will be that it will make the connection between upstream investments and the downstream benefits more clear.”

Identifying Projects

In addition to building capacity on the institutional level, transparency within water management funds, and increasing coordination between entities concerned with water, pilot projects that will offer the best potential for scaling up need to be identified.  But in these vast river basins, identifying the effect of individual interventions can be challenging, as can deciding on where to start. Another outcome of the report was the clear need to find some way to prioritize potential projects and interventions, since not everything can be tackled at once.  The consultants who authored the paper suggest a number of ways to prioritize based on identified threats, ability to work within the basin, or basins containing the water treatments plants with the most pressing issues.

What’s Next?

In Phase 2, the project first is looking to solidify the critical path and continue to educate key stakeholders within institutions.  In working to fill some of the data gaps, a monitoring workshop may be held later in the year. As these pieces of the puzzle are filled in, implementation of pilot projects will begin to happen next year.  “Critical to the success of this project is understanding investments in watershed services,” explained Rebecca. “If we haven’t convinced the directors of the institutions and the people on the ground that will be doing the implementation that this is important, then it won’t work.  Our whole approach is like having a discussion with the Working Group to find out what their ideas and questions are, then bringing people in to help them understand or to find the answers.  It might not be the quickest process, but quick and big and scalable doesn’t really happen in Ghana. I’ve often found that we hardly ever hit the bulls eye we are aiming at, but we usually achieve all sorts of other inspiring and important objectives that you would never have imagined at the outset.”


Water Initiative Team Profile: Rebecca Asare

The key to Forest Trends’ work across the world is the identification of key organizations and groups in each region to pave the way forward with in a culturally-appropriate and specific way.  In West Africa and Ghana, one of these people is Rebecca Asare, who works with the Forest Trends Incubator for Ecosystem Services.  In this capacity, she works to socialize the idea of ecosystem services, including IWS, throughout the West African region and beyond. However, Rebecca’s career in Africa started not in Ghana and not promoting ecosystem services.

You’ve spent most of your career in Africa. Where did this interest come from?

I studied political science at Colgate University when I was an undergraduate. I focused on international development in Africa and minored in environmental studies.  About halfway through, I went on a semester study abroad trip to Tanzania with SIT [the School for International Training].  It was just an incredible experience with a great group of people. Every single person from that group has gone off and done amazing things.  That was when I got the bug – I came back from the trip and really wanted to go back to Africa.

How did you get back?

Peace Corps seemed like the best way for me to go back, so I applied to Peace Corps. When I applied, they told me I would definitely not go to French-speaking Africa, but then in classic Peace Corps style, they called me up and asked me if I would be interested in going to Cote D’Ivoire, and I said yes.

Did your experience in Tanzania prepare you well for Cote D’Ivoire? read more »