Investing in watersheds makes sense. Keeping water clean and flowing at the source is cheaper and more reliable than fixing problems downstream. It’s something people have been doing for a long time and in lots of places. Where I grew up in California there are lots of water supply reservoirs that are pretty to look at but off limits for swimming. Across the country in the Catskills watershed, New York City is paying folks to replace septic systems and keep cattle away from riverbanks instead of building a water filtration plant. And we’ve seen some pretty bad things happen when watersheds aren’t managed right, such as streams turning brown from sediment or drying up all together.
So watershed investments are hot. All over the world, governments, non-profits and businesses are getting excited about the possibility of paying residents upstream to take actions that will keep clean water flowing consistently downstream. Continue reading
Do you know about the Water Framework Directive? It calls for all waters in the European Union to be managed as river basins and for those river basins to be brought up to “good status.” That’s tremendous – a really forward-looking way to think about managing water. But as you can surely imagine, it’s also quite a task to implement!
I was lucky enough to work with the RISKBASE group during 2009-2010 to help develop risk-based approaches for managers to guide river basins to good status. I’m not an expert in risk, nor an expert about European river basins, but I was really excited to get involved. This had the potential to bring biophysical science together with new management approaches to actually solve problems. Continue reading
We use more water for agriculture than for any other human activity on the planet, so water sustainability and food security are closely linked. And as demand for water increases — for domestic, industrial, and other uses, as well as for in-stream flows for nature, fishing, and recreation –demand for food expands as well due to our growing populations and changing diets. This dilemma will only create more pressure to optimize the efficiency of water use in crop production.
But how do we know where we might get more food “bang” for our water “buck”? I recently led a study evaluating how crop water productivity — the amount of crop produced per drop of water used — varies across the globe. We discovered that it varies significantly, even between places that have about the same climate. This shows that there is a “water gap” in some areas, which means they could be getting a lot more crop per drop. Continue reading