Submitted by guest blogger on Fri,10/04/2013

By Milika Sobey of IUCN’s Oceania Office.

Last week, I visited Manaoba Island, located in Malaita Province. This was my first visit to rural Solomon Islands since 1988 when I went on a two-week trip to the Western Province to do research in Marovo Lagoon. Little has changed in terms of living standards and access to water and sanitation.

My visit is part of a programme designing process for the Solomon Islands Government. IUCN is working with the United Nationa Development Programme (UNDP) and the Solomon Islands Government to design the water sector adaptation programme to be funded by the Global Environment Facility.

I was accompanied by three local consultants, a representative from UNDP and another from the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification. The trip involved a 30 minute flight to Auki (provincial capital of Malaita), followed by a sea journey of more than three hours in a 23ft fibreglass boat that had a 40hp engine (with no back-up) and carrying nine persons with luggage. Not an ideal situation.

We stayed in Terefalu village, one of four or five villages on the island. There are 26 households and they have one natural well which serves as their source of potable water – it’s a 25-minute walk from the village to the well. The villagers dug three other wells to serve as communal bathing and laundry sites. The beaches serve as toilets for the villagers.

We surveyed the water sources, the existing infrastructure for rainwater harvesting and improvements that could be made for water accessibility and storage. A meeting was convened with the villagers so that we could explain the project and discuss challenges that the potential impacts of climate change would bring about. The provincial Minister for Economic Planning also accompanied us to Terefalu, and after

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,09/18/2013

It is much more complicated to manage water than carbon and deserves more effort than simply transferring the same metrics, says James Dalton of IUCN’s Water Programme writing for Guardian Professional.

New business terms and trends come and go. Net positive impact (NPI) is one of these engaging concepts. It’s a relatively simple idea – business impacts on the environment and society need to be positive, to the point that they outweigh the negative impacts. Business should do more to reduce its impact, and not do less by just being reductionist. The question is, does it stand up to scrutiny when we consider water?

Water is our most complicated natural resource and the way business manages it must reflect this. Photo by IUCN Regional Office for West Asia

Imagine a mining company that has to remove forest to access minerals. This would negatively impact biodiversity, carbon storage, some social benefits, possibly cultural impacts, and maybe even hydrology. It would all be at the scale and context of the forest. In its simplest form, to become net positive the company would need to replace more forest than was removed. Equally, it would need to assess what cultural and social impacts had occurred, and how they would be replaced. The logic is there but from the perspective of water the mechanism of NPI has to think differently.

Pepsi in India claims to be net positive across its manufacturing sites – meaning the volume of water that goes into bottles of Pepsi. But it does not include the water footprint of its feedstock to make Pepsi – where 98% of the water is required. This means that it is net positive for around 2% of the water it takes to produce each

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,09/09/2013

By James Dalton of IUCN’s Water Programme, attending World Water Week.

This year’s annual World Water Week was a challenge of schedules. With more to say and with us involved in many sessions we tag-teamed presentations, speaking slots, panels and facilitation.

The week focussed on Water Cooperation – Building Partnerships, and our BRIDGE project was in full flow with our regional colleagues from Mesoamerica, Asia, and the Environmental Law Centre heavily involved. The ‘nexus’ was the word on many people’s lips as the water community struggles to work in this complex space of trade-offs between different sectoral needs and economic drivers.

For me, one of the most interesting sessions was on environmental flows. An environmental flow is the water provided within a river, wetland or coastal zone to maintain ecosystems and their benefits. The water needs of the ecosystems need to be specifically allocated to them, especially when there are competing users of the water, such as when a dam controls river flows upstream. We have just launched a new briefing on Environmental Flows: Managing Water Allocation and Trade-Offs.
Photo by Claire Warmenbol

There is always a session on eflows at the Water Week. This year we and a wide range of partners worked hard to make the session different. The feeling after the session was that we hit the nail on the head. A series of presentations pulled and pushed the concept of environmental flows around – and the full capacity audience then joined a number of discussions focussed on making eflows operational.

An inspiring presentation from Dipak Gyawali, former Minister of Water Resources for Nepal, and a member of our Nexus Reference Group, stirred the

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,09/04/2013

By Rebecca Welling of IUCN’s Water Programme attending World Water Week in Stockholm.

When you think about water diplomacy, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Law? Transboundary conflict? States and Ministers agreeing on pertinent issues?

For me, from a water management perspective, it was about legal frameworks, international law and States coming together to ‘shake hands’ on common issues, with the goal of signing ‘agreements’ to frame how countries should manage their water resources.

And it still is – but now I realise there’s more to it.

Working on the IUCN Water Programme’s Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) project I’ve learned that it’s not just about these elements. Crucially, in addition to national-level dialogue, it’s also about a variety of actors, right down to the community level, coming together to build a common vision under a variety of agreements – and not just treaties at the highest levels. For agreements to work on the ground they need to have the agreement of water users themselves. Working across such a spectrum of agreements builds a practical, operational roadmap for change and improvement in water governance capacities that is closely linked to sustainable development in a basin.

This is something that all of us in the team have learned working on the BRIDGE project.

Since our Global Learning Workshop in Lima in March, we have pulled this learning together in the form of a case study series and water governance briefings. Stories from project locations in the 3S rivers (as the Sesan, Sekong and Sre Pok rivers are collectively known) in the Mekong, to the Lake Titicaca basin between Peru and Bolivia explain how BRIDGE implements water diplomacy on the ground.

And what better place is there to share these

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Submitted by guest blogger on Fri,08/09/2013

By Dr James Dalton, Coordinator, Global Initiatives, IUCN Water Programme.

Well, it’s an easy question to answer – we need both. But what sort of blend do we need? Over the last few weeks I have been surprised and, I’ll admit, a little exasperated over some things – maybe it’s the heat and the noise in our office at the moment (we have new windows being installed).

I recently heard that there is general ‘scientific regression and we are subject to dogma-driven societal decisions’ – specifically about the role of science in the world IUCN operates in. Hmm…..isn’t that democracy – are we not all guilty of a little dogma-driven belief at some point? The earth was flat once, after all. Regression – I would argue that there are more and more science networks, partnerships and funding around than ever before, and more and more information and data. We maybe don’t make the best use of it, because we don’t know how to – yet. Or we don’t communicate it well enough. This is a common problem.

In a past life I dealt with research contracts for the UK Government. One of the main challenges we had was getting the uptake pathway right to put research into use. It would appear to still be a challenge. It’s not easy – there is no silver bullet. What we found is that researchers – those doing the science, are not necessarily the right people to articulate and communicate it. As Ryan Meyer writes in his excellent article in Nature, ‘decision makers do not read journals’.

Knowledge to action. Discussing the needs of different water users in the Tacana watershed of Central America. Photo By James DaltonI remember sitting in a

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Submitted by guest blogger on Fri,07/12/2013

By Dr James Dalton, Coordinator, Global Initiatives, IUCN Water Programme.

‘Nam bilong me James Dalton’ – I said as we all did introductions in Pidgin at the beginning of the stakeholder consultation meeting in Gizo, the capital of the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.  We continued introductions around the table and I handed over to Samson Rihuoha.  Sam is a Pastor, and an excellent facilitator – he has a voice that makes you want to listen, all day – perfect for his job.

Sam was part of the team I was working with to design an adaptation programme for the Solomon Islands Government to be funded by the Global Environment Facility.  I used to live in the Pacific before my IUCN days, and it was very good to be back in the region – to bump into old friends and colleagues and discuss the never-ending politics of the region. But we have a challenging task ahead of us. We need to look at how we can use adaptation approaches to help the water sector ready itself for climate change impacts in the future.  It’s not an easy task for a country of 974 islands, around 80 indigenous languages, active volcanoes, cyclones and tsunamis.

Photo by James Dalton

Gizo town itself was the scene of a devastating tsunami in 2007 which killed 54 people and caused huge amounts of damage, some of it still apparent both physically and in the minds of people we spoke to. We were in Gizo to conduct a rapid vulnerability assessment of the town which was selected as one of the pilot sites for the project. 

How can a town improve its water storage, the quality and availability of that water, and distribute it to people

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Submitted by guest blogger on Wed,06/12/2013

By Dr James Dalton, Coordinator, Global Initiatives, IUCN Water Programme.

I just came back from the International Hydropower Association (IHA) Congress in Kuching – the capital of the Malaysian State of Sarawak on Borneo. We wanted to see what progress had been made in the application of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP) following its launch at the last IHA Congress two years ago. Sarawak has a reputation for controversy around its dams – and I was not disappointed.

James Dalton (right) at the International Hydropower Association (IHA) Congress The first thing to understand is that dams are controversial. They bring huge energy benefits supplying around 17% of global energy demand, but cause massive disruption to river systems, riparian habitats, and to those that live in the river basins. They provide carbon ‘free’ (although not entirely) energy – and the energy they produce is often promoted as inexpensive. During construction they can provide many jobs and lucrative contracts, and consequently they are often used for political gain, and as a show of national pride and power.

Hydropower dams in Sarawak are a little different though – but maybe they are the shape of things to come? The Sarawak Government has developed something called the Sarawak Corridor for Renewable Energy – a growth corridor fuelled by up to 12 dams supplying energy for major industrial development in Sarawak. Setting aside the environmental impacts for now – who needs this amount of power? Sarawak already produces more energy than it needs – is the future going to see dams built to attract follow-on industrial investment – energy supply before the demand?

At the Congress the World Bank announced it was back with

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Submitted by Claire W on Wed,06/05/2013

By Claire Warmenbol of IUCN’s Global Water Programme.

Claire WarmenbolI will start this post with a confession. When I recently told my mother I was flying to Nairobi for a workshop on the Nexus Dialogue, I struggled to explain to her, in a jargon-free way, what this project is all about.

The truth was, the Nexus, amongst our many Water Programme projects, was still fuzzy to me. It all seemed so abstract, and frankly, not at all sexy. But it’s a crucial project, formally known as the Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions, which started early this year in partnership with the International Water Association (IWA) and with funding from the US State Department.

So part of my plan whilst coordinating communications during the Nexus’ first regional workshop (which took place 28-29 May, see web story), was to listen, ask questions and gather stories. Stories are always the key, not only to explain complex topics, but also to bring messages home, make something memorable.

Ok, so what is this Nexus? You may have picked up the term already in the press, environmental literature or at lectures and meetings. The Cambridge dictionary defines Nexus as ‘an important connection between the parts of a system or a group of things’. It further illustrates this definition with the example: ‘Times Square is the nexus of the New York Subway’. I thought that was quite apt, particularly since we had an infographic designed on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus using the model of a subway system (see my colleague Rebecca Welling’s blog post).

Discussions at the Nairobi Nexus meetingBut still, really, what is meant with the Nexus? In real

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Submitted by guest blogger on Mon,04/08/2013

By Dr James Dalton, Coordinator, Global Initiatives, IUCN Water Programme.

Corporate partnerships are big news nowadays – especially on water. The resource that many of them need or impact upon is fast becoming a focal point for discussions around sustainability.

Water footprinting, stewardship, and the ‘nexus’ issues – the complex way water flows through the energy and food/agriculture sectors are just some of the subjects of many networks, blogs, articles and platforms.

And here is another one! But hopefully with a difference. The IUCN Water Programme, in partnership with the Ramsar Secretariat and DANONE Waters recently held a workshop to review an internal water management tool developed by DANONE to help them manage the groundwater resources they bottle and sell – water which becomes iconic brands like Evian.

I’ll admit to being a little nervous on the first morning of the workshop – we had brought together a really diverse range of people. From water safety planners, water quality gurus, business sustainability thinkers, experts in finance, wetland ecology, corporate water stewardship, and biodiversity. They were members of IUCN Commissions, the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel, independent experts, colleagues, and contacts through networks. Would they find common points to discuss given the wide range of specialities in the room – had we got the balance of minds right? Would we all benefit from this exchange of experience?

My fears were allayed about two hours into the workshop. There were some strong viewpoints and perspectives in the room, but they were open to friendly and constructive discussion. Experience brings with it quicker, more decisive thinking, but good facilitation steered us to listen to the many different perspectives present. Everyone benefited from having Danone Waters experts in the room who were

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Submitted by Mark Smith on Fri,03/22/2013

"World Water Day is like any themed global day: it’s not really to ‘celebrate’ water, it’s about getting people to pay attention and decide they’re going to take action to solve water problems." 

With this is mind, the day started well. BBC news had a series of reports about water in Asia, from China, the Philippines, India and Indonesia showing how water scarcity is squeezing food supply, how water pollution makes people sick, how the poorest people, perversely, pay the most for the water they drink. Standing by a stinking (it looked smelly at least…) river in Jakarta, a reporter pointed to the river, incredulous, and said this is what people bathe in, swim in and drink. The people living by the river, and Indonesia in this case, are paying the price in terms of health, money in pockets, lost investment and, as industries go elsewhere where water risks are lower, jobs too.

Behind the speeches by royalty and eminent personalities at theWorld Water Day dialogue in The Hague today, lies the challenge of solving real problems like these, affecting real people. What everyone here agrees on is that the solutions are not easy. This is why 2013 is the International Year of Water Cooperation. Solving water problems means cooperating over water. But even this is not simple.

The experts and politicians debating here have called for cooperation among communities, governments, business, bankers, farmers, industries, on the human right to water and sanitation, food and energy security, water pollution, governance, water diplomacy and ecosystems. The crux of the challenge then, people are saying, is to translate this web of issues into a post-2014 development agenda for water that politicians will come to bat for. HRH The Prince of Orange, HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, President Ellen Johnson...Read more