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New Electrochemical Method Eliminates Mercury From Water

In the laboratory of Wickman and Tunsu at the Chalmers University of Technology, when mercury ions (light purple) in a liquid come near an electrode of platinum, they are attracted to the electrode's surface where they get reduced to metallic mercury. On the electrode, mercury atoms (dark purple) and platinum atoms (grey) develop into a very strong alloy, and so the mercury is removed from the water. 2018 (Photo by Björn Wickman and Adam Arvidsson / Chalmers University of Technology) Posted for media use.

In the laboratory of Wickman and Tunsu at the Chalmers University of Technology, when mercury ions (light purple) in a liquid come near an electrode of platinum, they are attracted to the electrode’s surface where they get reduced to metallic mercury. On the electrode, mercury atoms (dark purple) and platinum atoms (grey) develop into a very strong alloy, and so the mercury is removed from the water. 2018 (Photo by Björn Wickman and Adam Arvidsson / Chalmers University of Technology) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

GOTEBORG, Sweden, December 6, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Water contaminated with mercury and other toxic heavy metals is a major cause of environmental damage and health problems worldwide. Now, researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have devised a new way to clean contaminated water – through an electrochemical process.

“Our results have really exceeded the expectations we had when we started with the technique,” says the research leader Björn Wickman, from Chalmers’ Department of Physics. “Our new method makes it possible to reduce the mercury content in a liquid by more than 99 percent. This can bring the water well within the margins for safe human consumption.”

The World Health Organization says mercury is one the most harmful substances for human health. It accumulates in the body and can harm the brains, hearts, kidneys, lungs and immune systems of people of all ages. Mercury is especially harmful to unborn children and infants whose nervous systems are under development, and it can be transmitted from a mother to a child during pregnancy.

The toxic metal spreads easily through nature and can enter the food chain. Freshwater fish, for example, often contain high levels of mercury.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be released to the environment from natural sources – the weathering of rocks containing mercury, forest fires, volcanic eruptions or geothermal activities – and also from human activities.

Humans use mercury in industrial processes that produce chlorine or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polyurethane elastomers. It is extensively used to extract gold from ore in artisanal and small-scale gold mining. It is in products such as electrical switches and thermostats, relays, measuring and control equipment, energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs, batteries and dental amalgam.

It is also used in laboratories, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, in vaccines as a preservative, in paints and jewelry. Discarded electronics often contain mercury and can end up being salvaged by unprotected workers in developing countries.

Mercury is also released from industrial processes, such as coal-fired power and heat generation, cement production, mining and other metallurgic activities such as non-ferrous metals production, as well as from incineration of many types of waste.

An estimated 5,500-8,900 tons of mercury is currently emitted and re-emitted each year to the atmosphere.

Today there are strict regulations concerning the management of toxic heavy metals to limit their spread in nature. But many places worldwide are already contaminated, and the metals can be transported in rain or in the air. This results in ecosystems where heavy metals can become abundant.

“Today, cleaning away the low, yet harmful, levels of mercury from large amounts of water is a major challenge. Industries need better methods to reduce the risk of mercury being released in nature,” says Wickman.

Björn Wickman and Cristian Tunsu are presenting a new and effective way of cleaning mercury from water. Their new technology cleans contaminated water so that it is well within the safe limits for drinkability. 2018 (Photo by Mia Halleröd Palmgren) Posted for media use.

Björn Wickman and Cristian Tunsu are presenting a new and effective way of cleaning mercury from water. Their new technology cleans contaminated water so that it is well within the safe limits for drinkability. 2018 (Photo by Mia Halleröd Palmgren) Posted for media use.

How the New Technique Works

Over the last two years, Wickman and Cristian Tunsu, a researcher at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, have studied an electrochemical process for cleaning mercury from water.

Their method involves a metal plate – an electrode – that binds specific heavy metals to it. The electrode is made of platinum; through an electrochemical process it draws the toxic mercury out of the water to form an alloy of the two – a mercury-platinum alloy.

In this way, the water is cleaned of the mercury contamination. The alloy formed by the two metals is very stable, so there is no risk of the mercury re-entering the water.

“An alloy of this type has been made before, but with a totally different purpose in mind. This is the first time the technique with electrochemical alloying has been used for decontamination purposes,” says Tunsu.

One strength of the new energy efficient cleaning technique is that the electrode has a very high capacity. Each platinum atom can bond with four mercury atoms. The mercury atoms do not only bond on the surface, but also penetrate deeper into the material, creating thick layers, allowing the electrode to be used for a long time. After use, the electrode can be recycled, and the mercury disposed of safely.

“Another great thing with our technique is that it is very selective. Even though there may be many different types of substance in the water, it just removes the mercury. Therefore, the electrode doesn’t waste capacity by unnecessarily taking away other substances from the water,” says Wickman.

A patent for the new method is being sought, and in order to commercialize the discovery, a new company, Atium, has been established.

The  innovation has already received a number of prizes and awards, both in Sweden and internationally. The research has also attracted a strong response from industry.

Right now, the researchers are working on a prototype that can be tested outside the lab under real-world conditions.

The technique could be used to reduce the amount of waste and increase the purity of waste and process water in the chemical and mining industries, and in metal production.

It could contribute to better environmental cleaning of places with contaminated land and water sources.

The new method can even be used to clean drinking water in badly affected environments because, due to its low energy use, it can be powered entirely by solar cells. As a result, it can be developed into a mobile and reusable water cleaning technology.

Read the article, “Effective removal of mercury from aqueous streams via electrochemical alloy formation on platinum” in the scientific journal “Nature Communications.

The Minamata Convention

The Minamata Convention on Mercury  is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from human emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

Signed by 128 countries and ratified by 101 countries and the European Union, the Convention takes its name from the most severe mercury poisoning disaster in history, which came to light in Minamata, Japan, in May 1956, after sustained dumping of industrial waste waters into Minamata Bay, beginning in the 1930s.

Local villagers who ate fish and shellfish from the bay started suffering convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness and coma. Thousands of people were certified as having suffered from mercury poisoning, now known as Minamata disease.

Almost 150 countries, 94 of them Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, met in Geneva in late November to strengthen their efforts to reduce and eliminate the adverse effects of mercury as a new UN report revealed that global mercury emissions into the atmosphere rose by around 20 percent between 2010 and 2015.

East and Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America account for the greatest increases in mercury emissions between 2010 and 2015, according to the assessment.

For centuries, mercury has been used in measuring devices such as thermometers and blood pressure devices. The Minamata Convention stipulates the phase-out of manufacturing, as well as the import and export of these and other mercury-added products by 2020.

Over the next few decades, the Minamata Convention on Mercury is expected to reduce mercury pollution from the activities responsible for major releases of the toxic metal into the environment.

Featured Source Image:  A worker handles mercury with his bare hands in a small-scale gold mine in the province of Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region, Philippines. December 5, 2016 (Photo by International Labor Organization) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Maxtraining

Making Fresh Water Out of Thin Air

David Hertz harvesting water in Big Sur, California. Skywater 150 produces up to 150 gallons a day. The water can be stored in collection tanks for future use. 2018 (Photo courtesy Skysource/Skywater Alliance)

David Hertz harvesting water in Big Sur, California. Skywater 150 produces up to 150 gallons a day. The water can be stored in collection tanks for future use. 2018 (Photo courtesy Skysource/Skywater Alliance)

By Sunny Lewis

LOS ANGELES, California, October 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – An atmospheric water generator that condenses moisture in the air, making fresh drinking water, has won the Water Abundance XPrize worth US$1.5 million. The prize went to David Hertz and Laura Doss-Hertz co-founders of the Skysource/Skywater Alliance , which produces the devices and runs one on solar power at its headquarters in Venice Beach, California.

The Water Abundance XPrize, sponsored by the Tata Group and Australian Aid, was launched in 2016 at the United Nations in New Delhi. The two-year competition was aimed at easing the global water crisis with energy-efficient technologies that harvest fresh water from the air.

To qualify for the Water Abundance XPRIZE, competitors had to extract over 2,000 liters of drinkable water from the atmosphere in a 24 hour period using only renewable resources, for less than two cents per liter.

Each Skywater model produces enough fresh water from air for a household use or emergency relief efforts, producing it “more efficiently than any other method of moisture extraction or filtration,” the company claims.

Skywater machines range from the Skywater 30, which makes up to 30 gallons of water a day, to the Skywater 300, which can produce up to 300 gallons of water a day.

The Skysource/Skywater Alliance came to be when South Florida company Island Sky Corp. creator of Skywater® technology joined forces with their West Coast distributor and business partner Skysource.org to form the Skysource/Skywater Alliance.

Richard Groden, president of Island Sky has been harvesting water from the air in Broward County, Florida since 2004.

“Water is a human right,” Groden has said. “There is an abundant, untapped source of clean drinking water in the air around us. Our technology provides a very comprehensive solution to the water crisis that will work as well in the developing world as it will in the technologically advanced areas.”

The Skywater Technology

Skywater uses a patented distillation process, where water vapor is reduced to liquid without a gain or loss of heat. Refrigeration techniques maintain a dew point within a condensation chamber, maximizing water production from whatever the atmospheric condition exists.

The higher the humidity and temperature, the more water can be produced.

After condensation, the water is filtered and treated with ozone to enhance its taste and prevent potentially hazardous micro-organisms from forming. The water can be used or stored for future use.

The winning system, called WEDEW [wood-to-energy deployed water] was created by combining two existing systems. Skywater, a large box that mimics the way clouds are formed, takes in warm air, which hits cold air and forms droplets of condensation – pure drinking water.

The water is stored in a tank inside a shipping container and connected to a bottle refill station or tap.

Because the process uses so much electricity, the designers powered it with a biomass gassifier that burns wood chips, coconut shells, or whatever cheap biomass is locally available. That makes the system hot and humid, the ideal environment to run the air-to-water machine.

As it generates power, the system produces biochar, a charcoal that can be used to enrich soil.

“There’s no restrictions whatsoever on how it’s used,” Hertz, an architect, said of the $1.5 million in prize money. “But Laura and I have committed to using it all for the development and deployment of these machines, to get them to people who need the water most,” he told the Associated Press.

According to The United Nations World Water Development Report 2016, the world could face a 40 percent global water deficit by 2030. By 2025, an estimated 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the global population living in water-stressed conditions.

Zenia Tata, vice president of Global Impact Strategy at XPrize, is enthusiastic about relieving the thirsting millions who face water scarcity. “Water is our lifeblood. With alarming water shortages impacting livelihood around the world, we are in dire need of decentralized and democratized water breakthroughs now more than ever,” said Tata.

Water, Water Everywhere in the Air

While water may be increasingly scarce in many places on Earth, at any given moment, the atmosphere contains an astounding 37.5 million billion gallons of water, in the invisible vapor phase. This is enough water to cover the entire surface of the Earth, both land and ocean, with one inch of rain, say Steven Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Nature recycles this huge amount of water 40 times each year in an endless cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation all over the planet, say Ackerman and Martin.

When it comes to drawing some of that water from the atmosphere, Skywater has many competitors in this fast-evolving field. The Water Abundance Xprize competition began with 98 teams from 27 countries. The five other finalist teams were:

JMCC WING from South Point, Big Island of Hawaii: Led by James McCanney, this team is powering the JMCC WING, LLC line of industrial atmospheric water generators with a high efficiency wind energy system, to extract water from the atmosphere. This team received a $150,000 XPrize to acknowledge the team’s ingenuity in developing a unique technological approach.

Hydro Harvest Operation of Newcastle, Australia: – Led by the University of Newcastle’s Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, the team developed a simple, energy-efficient and cost-effective device, giving communities worldwide the ability to harvest their own fresh water.

Skydra of Chicago, Illinois: Led by Jacques Laramie, Nathan Taylor, and Chris Wlezien, the team has employed a hybrid solution that utilizes both natural and engineered systems to condense water out of the air.

Uravu of Hyderabad, India: – Led by Swapnil Shrivastav, the team is developing a completely off-grid water from air device, spinning together the material sciences and solar thermal energy.

The Veragon & ThinAir Partnership of London, United Kingdom: Led by Laura Dean, the team has developed a partnership with the key objective of revolutionizing the capability of atmospheric water generators to deliver high quality, mineralized drinking water at the point of need, in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Visioneering: Incubator and Stage

The Water Abundance XPrize was awarded during Visioneering 2018, XPrize’s annual gathering of philanthropists and innovators to evaluate concepts for future competitions.

“This year’s Visioneering beautifully encapsulates the full life-cycle of an XPrize with the awarding of the Water Abundance XPrize, which began as a prize concept proposed at a Visioneering just five years earlier by our trustee, Eric Hirshberg,” said Dr. Peter Diamandis, XPrize founder and executive chairman.

“It is testament to the basic premise that Visioneering is the forum where participants’ breakthrough ideas are presented, evaluated, upvoted, funded and then go on to have real-world, transformative impact,” Diamandis explained.

In addition, attendees of Visioneering 2018 deemed a “Coral Survival” prize concept, whose development efforts were sponsored by Wendy Schmidt, as the top prize design. This prize design, once funded, will launch as a future XPrize competition.

This prize concept calls for innovations that can scale coral survival 1,000-fold, taking the survival rate of new coral larvae from one in a million, to one in a thousand, helping to replenish dying coral reefs.

Anousheh Ansari, XPrize chief executive officer, said, “What particularly resonated about the coral reef presentation is the urgency with which we need to address this important issue caused by climate change before it is too late. We are committed to finding the necessary funds to capitalize and launch this competition as soon as possible.”

Featured Image: Thirsty boy enjoys water from the air in the form of rain. July 18, 2017, Saint Sulpice, Montreal, Quebec (Photo by Stéphanie Vaudry) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Water Shortages Linked to Violence, Poverty

A Boko Haram bombing, February 6, 2015, (Photo courtesy Diariocritico de Venezuela) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A Boko Haram bombing, February 6, 2015, (Photo courtesy Diariocritico de Venezuela) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 27, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – More nature-based solutions are urgently needed to avoid a violent global water crisis, warn the hosts of World Water Week 2018, which opened Sunday in Stockholm, attracting government leaders, water experts, development professionals and business representatives from throughout the world.

A record number of 3,700 delegates are meeting in the Swedish capital August 26-31 to explore solutions to the world’s escalating water challenges, hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), which organizes World Water Week each year.

The urgency arises because wherever there is poor water management and stressed ecosystems, violent conflicts and poverty are sure to follow.

Today, more than 1.2 billion of the world’s 7.6 billion inhabitants lack access to clean drinking water.

Decades of unprecedented economic and population growth, rapid urbanization and climate change have led to stressed ecosystems and high pressure on limited water resources. In response, societies must find and implement solutions that work with, not against, nature.

World Water Week has become the central meeting-place for the global water community to work out such dilemmas. This year the gathering is focused on the link between water, ecosystems and human development.

Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and a former environment minister of Nigeria, speaks to an audience of water experts on August 27, 2018, the opening day of World Water Week 2018, Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Thomas Henriksson / SIWI) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and a former environment minister of Nigeria, speaks to an audience of water experts on August 27, 2018, the opening day of World Water Week 2018, Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Thomas Henriksson / SIWI) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Amina Mohammed, deputy secretary-general of the United Nations and a former environment minister of Nigeria, told conference delegates about the link between environmental degradation, poverty and violent conflicts in her home country, which has endured terrorism carried out by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

“I believe that the tragedy of Boko Haram is inextricably linked to poor water management, and the solution to the conflict in the region must include equitable ways of using water resources,” Mohammed said.

As an example of the dramatic consequences of a collapsing ecosystem, Mohammed pointed to Lake Chad, which has shrunk by 90 percent, saying, “It has impacted food insecurity and is increasing the risk of water-borne diseases, but it is also causing poverty by taking away farmers’ livelihoods, especially for women.”

“And it has a gender dimension, contributing, among other [thing]s, to low levels of school-enrollment among our girls. Taken together,” said Mohammed, “all these factors have contributed increasingly to insecurity in our region, already affected by religious extremism.”

Åsa Regnér, assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director at UN Women, described lack of water as a root cause of poverty and inequality since “…in Sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water, equivalent to a year’s worth of labor by the entire workforce in France.”

“With the rapidly growing demand for water, it is becoming increasingly clear that water is everybody’s issue. Scarcity  of water has become the new normal in  so  many  parts of the world,” said SIWI Executive Director Torgny Holmgren.

In his welcome address this morning, Holmgren called for a shift towards more green infrastructure solutions, observing that they are inherently multi-functional.

“City parks retain rain, improve the microclimate, contribute to biodiversity – and look good doing so. Green solutions are, in addition, also often much more resilient than grey. They tend to bend rather than break under pressure,” said Holmgren. “They can repair themselves and restore their functionality also after significant damage.”

There is a growing realization everywhere that humans are increasingly vulnerable to water shortages, extreme weather and social unrest, Holmgren said.

Carin Jämtin, director-general of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, also talked about the relationship between poverty, conflicts and lack of clean water.

“In countries affected by conflict and fragility, tensions over water increase,” Jämtin said. “There is evidence that water and sanitation infrastructure have been attacked, or that the access to clean water is denied as tactic or weapon of war.”

“Without access to clean water, children fall ill, hospitals do not function, and disease and malnutrition spread quickly. Among the threats against children in conflict, the lack of safe drinking water is one of the deadliest,” Jämtin said.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngård, pointed to the risk from populism and short-sightedness but also felt that cities are increasingly coming together to find new solutions. “I hope that this week will help the global community to get closer to the goal of a sustainable world,” she said.

Some speakers expressed optimism about the increase in new solutions modeled on natural processes.

2018 Stockholm Water Prize winners Professors Bruce Rittmann and Mark van Loosdrecht at the 2018 World Water Week opening session, August 27, 2018 (Photo by Thomas Henriksson / SIWI) Creative Commons license via Flickr

2018 Stockholm Water Prize winners Professors Bruce Rittmann and Mark van Loosdrecht at the 2018 World Water Week opening session, August 27, 2018 (Photo by Thomas Henriksson / SIWI) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Many find the work of 2018 Stockholm Water Prize winners Professors Bruce Rittmann and Mark van Loosdrecht inspiring.

Van Loosdrecht is professor in Environmental Biotechnology at Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. Rittmann is a professor of environmental engineering and director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, United States.

By revolutionizing microbiological-based technologies in water and wastewater treatment, the two professors have demonstrated how to remove contaminants from water, cut wastewater treatment costs, reduce energy consumption, and recover chemicals and nutrients for recycling.

Rittman told Maggie White, SIWI’s senior manager for international policies,  “We want to have a merging of environmental and economic interests. We don’t want to make pollution control and environmental protection just a cost to society, we want to turn that also into a generator of resources and economic value.”

Featured Images:  Enjoying fresh water, August 3, 2006, Beaucaire, Languedoc-Roussillon, France (Photo by topher76) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Innovators Find Water Scarcity Solutions

A team of Argonne National Lab researchers successfully tested the Oleo Sponge off the coast of Southern California in April 2018. (Photo by Argonne National Laboratory) Posted for media use

A team of Argonne National Lab researchers successfully tested the Oleo Sponge off the coast of Southern California in April 2018. (Photo by Argonne National Laboratory) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “We have a water crisis, which is based on increasing population, urbanization and climate disruption. And there’s unsustainable use of our water,” said Argonne National Laboratory researcher Seth Darling. “Part of addressing this is through policy solutions, but we also need new, more energy-efficient and cost-effective technologies.”

As shown this year by South Africa’s countdown to “Day Zero,” or the day the water taps are expected to run dry, water scarcity continues to be a growing problem across the globe. The current system is almost entirely dependent on rainfall.

Four billion people are facing “severe water scarcity” according to a 2016 study by Mesfin Mekonnen and Arjen  Hoekstra at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. “We find that two-thirds of the global population live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round.”

Authorities are seeking ways improve water access, building desalination plants, extracting groundwater from aquifers and reducing water leaks due to aging infrastructure. Mekonnen and Hoekstra say, “Putting caps to water consumption by river basin, increasing water-use efficiencies, and better sharing of the limited freshwater resources will be key in reducing the threat posed by water scarcity on biodiversity and human welfare.”

Now researchers are discovering innovative ways to clean water, desalinate water, even collect water on fog harps.

Darling’s new and comprehensive research paper describes some of the most advanced innovations that could improve access to clean water globally. It was released this week in the “Journal of Applied Physics,” published by the American Institute of Physics.

Darling’s focus is on understanding and controlling the interfaces between materials and water. Interfaces are what determine the performance of technologies such as water quality sensors, filtration membranes and pipes.

Adsorbents of All Kinds

Adsorption is one of the best mechanisms for cleaning water. A sorbent is a material used to absorb or adsorb liquids or gases. In the adsorption process, contaminants adhere to the surface of porous materials to maximize surface-to-volume ratio. Darling’s own labs are working on adsorbents to advance water treatment.

Highly porous activated carbon is the most extensively used adsorbent because it is abundant and inexpensive.

Zeolites, a kind of rock that can trap water within, can trap whole molecules in their 3D crystalline cage structures, enabling them to selectively bind particular compounds from water-based solutions.

There are about 40 naturally occurring zeolites, formed in both volcanic and sedimentary rocks, says the U.S. Geological Survey. Around 150 more artificial, synthetic zeolites have been designed for specific purposes, such as laundry detergent.

Polymer-based sorbents have nearly limitless flexibility in their design. To meet the demand for green chemistry and sustainable development, much research has been devoted to the design and synthesis of advanced adsorbent nanomaterials such as polymer-based sorbents for efficient adsorption, separation and purification.

“We will continue to rely on these proven technologies,” Darling said. “But there is also a pressing need for sorbents that are more effective and energy-efficient.”

In recent years, functional hydrogels have emerged as effective adsorbents for the removal of water-soluble contaminants. A hydrogel is a gel composed of polymers suspended in water. For instance, a silicone hydrogel is used to make soft contact lenses.

But for amorphous soft materials such as hydrogels, a relatively long time is required to reach a saturated state of adsorption, writes Wantai Yang and colleagues from China’s Beijing University of Chemical Technology in a paper on hydrogels from 2016. “Meanwhile,” writes Yang, “difficulties associated with the regeneration and disposal of hydrogel adsorbents constitute major obstacles for their practical application.”

Porous Membranes

Engineered porous membranes can help recover freshwater from heavily polluted groundwater and seawater, which is a critical need in developing countries and arid environments like the Arabian Peninsula.

Conventional water desalination processes rely on polymer membranes. However, unless these membranes achieve very good salt rejection, they can fall short of the needed high freshwater flux.

Now, Zhiping Lai and colleagues from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have developed carbon-composite membranes that consist of a network of carbon fibers deposited on a porous, hollow ceramic tube.

Lai calls these membranes, “the first that can be used in all three membrane-based desalination processes, namely membrane distillation, reverse osmosis and forward osmosis.”

These membranes can simultaneously reject all the salt plus let large quantities of freshwater through their nanoscopic pores while consuming little energy. The water fluxes are up to 20 times higher than for commercial membranes.

These results come from a unique interfacial salt-sieving effect, which differs from a solution-diffusion mechanism observed in polymer membranes, explains Lai.

One side of the membrane is immersed in salt water while the other is in contact with freshwater, creating a gap between two liquid surfaces.

“Water evaporates from the salt water and quickly passes through the carbon gap before condensing at the freshwater side. Thanks to the excellent thermal conductivity of carbon fibers, most of the energy can be recovered, which reduces energy consumption by more than 80 percent,” explains Lai.

Seth Darling is a scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. 2018 (Photo courtesy University of Chicago) Posted for media use

Seth Darling is a scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. 2018 (Photo courtesy University of Chicago) Posted for media use

Reuse or Be Left Behind

Reusability is a critical characteristic for sorbent materials; it can reduce costs and increase the sustainability of a treatment process. Polymeric foam sponges are promising candidates for this approach.

Darling, who serves as director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering at Argonne National Lab, is heading a group that created the Oleo Sponge, which can soak up 90 times its weight in oil throughout the entire water column.

To create the Oleo Sponge, a patent-pending technology, the researchers implemented a technique called sequential infiltration synthesis (SIS). Using SIS, they grew metal oxide within the foam fibers to transform common polyurethane foam, found in seat cushions, into an oil adsorbent.

The metal oxide serves as the glue to which the oil-loving molecules attach.

Oleo Sponge is reusable; you simply wring the reclaimed oil into a holding tank. This cuts waste resulting from the clean-up process and enables a small amount of adsorbent to mitigate enormous spills.

The technology is the first and only option to adsorb oil and other petroleum products below the water surface. Current industry-standard technologies only address the surface.

Oleo Sponge is environmentally friendly, doing no harm to sea life, animals or the larger environment, a key advantage when compared with chemical dispersants or burning techniques that are used today.

“This technology is so important because, despite the industry’s best intentions, oil spills continue to happen, and existing cleanup methods are surprisingly inadequate,” said Darling.

“This technology has so many applications,” Darling said. “We are excited about the opportunities for other environmental remediation applications and beyond, which makes us that much more motivated to keep working on it.”

Researchers are also designing next-generation sorbents that have higher specificity – more binding power to target individual pollutants. Ideally, researchers could tailor the properties of interfaces to adsorb challenging water contaminants like nutrients and heavy metals.

Josh Tulkoff constructs a large prototype of the fog harp - a vertical array of 700 wires. Tulkoff was part of an interdisciplinary research team at Virginia Tech that discovered parallel wire arrays could increase the water collection capacity of fog nets threefold. 2018 (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech) Posted for media use.

Josh Tulkoff constructs a large prototype of the fog harp – a vertical array of 700 wires. Tulkoff was part of an interdisciplinary research team at Virginia Tech that discovered parallel wire arrays could increase the water collection capacity of fog nets threefold. 2018 (Photo courtesy Virginia Tech) Posted for media use.

Harvesting Water From Fog

Installing giant nets along hillsides and mountaintops to catch water out of thin air sounds more like folly than science. However, the technique has become an important avenue to clean water for many who live in arid and semi-arid climates.

A passive, durable, and effective method of water collection, fog harvesting consists of catching the microscopic droplets of water suspended in the wind that make up fog.

Fog nets have been in use since the 1980s and can yield clean water in any area that experiences frequent, moving fog. Fog harvesting has gained acceptance in areas of Africa, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and California.

As wind moves the fog’s microscopic water droplets through the nets, some get caught on the net’s suspended wires. These droplets gather and merge until they have enough weight to travel down the nets and settle into collection troughs below. In some of the largest fog harvesting projects, these nets collect an average of 6,000 liters of water each day.

Now an interdisciplinary research team at Virginia Tech has improved the traditional design of fog nets to triple their collection capacity.

Published in “ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces,” the team’s research demonstrates how a vertical array of parallel wires can change the forecast for fog harvesters. In a design the researchers have called the “fog harp,” these vertical wires shed tiny water droplets faster and more efficiently than the traditional mesh netting used in fog nets.

“From a design point of view, I’ve always found it somewhat magical that you can essentially use something that looks like screen door mesh to translate fog into drinking water,” said Brook Kennedy, associate professor of industrial design in the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies and one of the study’s co-authors. “But these parallel wire arrays are really the fog harp’s special ingredient.”

Kennedy, who specializes in biomimetic design, found his inspiration for the fog harp in nature.

“On average, coastal redwoods rely on fog drip for about one-third of their water intake,” he said. “These sequoia trees that live along the California coast have evolved over long periods of time to take advantage of that foggy climate. Their needles, like those of a traditional pine tree, are organized in a type of linear array. You don’t see cross meshes.”

And There’s More

With a desire to develop breakthrough technologies for water filtration and purification, French researchers have developed membranes with artificial channels inspired by the proteins that form the pores in biological membranes – aquaporins.

The scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research, the largest governmental research organization in France, use an innovative spectroscopic technique.

With their new technique, they have been able to observe that, in the very restricted space in these channels, water molecules organize in a regular manner, in an oriented molecular wire structure – the water has become “chiral.” A chiral phenomenon is one that is not identical to its mirror image.

Water, via hydrogen bonds, interacts with the walls of these artificial channels. In the resulting superstructures, the molecules forming the channels transmit their chiral character to the water threads, and give the water molecules a preferred direction.

Laboratory experiments confirmed that these chiral arrangements present greater transfer properties than their non-chiral equivalents, where water forms random molecular arrangement. This discovery opens a vast area of application for water filtration and purification.

Featured Images: A young resident of Afghanistan’s Maslakh Camp for displaced persons takes a drink of water, Herat, Afghanistan. February 2, 2002 (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN Photo) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Vote for 2018 Young Champions of the Earth

A healthy reef in Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.

A healthy reef in Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 21, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Hargeisa, Somaliland established his own tree-planting program in 2015, the same year he graduated from the University of Hargeisa with a degree in Environmental Science. He is now one of 35 finalists worldwide in the contest for the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth prize.

“My big idea is to plant trees in cities while educating youth in schools and universities about the importance of forests and mobilizing them to participate in a nationwide reforestation program,” said Abdirahman. “This will build on work that I have already undertaken to promote tree-planting at weddings, graduation ceremonies, and schools. My goal is to bring back the forests of Somaliland and foster a national culture in which caring for the environment is recognized by everyone as their moral responsibility.”

Now in its second year, Young Champions of the Earth is a global competition that seeks out entrepreneurs and innovators with big ideas to secure a sustainable future. All of the finalists’ ideas address urgent environmental issues in innovative ways.

Their proposals range from land-based coral farms to replenish the dying coral reefs around the world and a plan for breeding fatty insects as a source of biofuel, to be used as an alternative for palm oil.

There are educational initiatives involving board games, music and digital platforms to raise environmental awareness; tackling plastic pollution through recycling and upcycling into bricks and urinals, and an integrated system of wildfire detectors that could prevent destructive fires.

Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Somaliland is one of five finalists from Africa in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition. (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use

Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Somaliland is one of five finalists from Africa in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition. (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use

“The Young Champions of the Earth prize is highlighting exactly how creative, dedicated and driven young people can be when it comes to the future of our environment,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. “These regional finalists are an inspiration to all of us, that hard work and a positive outlook are a powerful way to reach a goal, even one as ambitious as a sustainable world for all.”

Seven final winners will each receive the prestigious prize along with US$15,000 in seed funding, mentorship from industry leaders and access to a wide network of influencers to bring their ideas into fruition.

Members of the public can view and rate the 35 proposals here. The non-binding public vote will close at 4 pm Eastern Africa Time, three hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), on Monday, June 25.

The public online vote will inform a global jury that will select the winning 2018 Young Champions in September.

Here are some of the big ideas that have attracted attention in the online voting.

Europe

Maria Sousa, 25, a systems engineer from Portugal, is a finalist in the Young Champions contest. Her big idea centers on early fire detection through remote sensing using artificial intelligence.

A research fellow at the Center of Intelligent Systems at IDMEC-Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Lisbon, Sousa’s big idea is to have a dynamic network of sensors that can relay real-time data when there are forecasts of increased fire risk. Her system relies on static sensors as well as mobile aerial platforms such as drones and high-altitude balloons for extensive area coverage.

Asia & the Pacific

Natalie Kyriacou, 30, of Australia, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit My Green World, the Creator of World of the Wild mobile game app, and the Australian Director of Sri Lankan-based NGO, Dogstar Foundation, is a sitting member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper  and a Forbes 30 Under 30  honoree. She is also a finalist in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition.

Kyriacou’s big idea is Kids’ Corner, a digital classroom inspiring children and educators to participate in wildlife and environmental conservation and sciences through workshop-based environmental programs, animation videos, fact sheets, infographics, reading materials, teachers’ notes, games and home activities. “Kids’ Corner breaks down complex issues into easy, fun, positive and actionable concepts that can be used in any setting,” she says. Kids’ Corner will be available online and offline, and in homes, schools and hospitals.

North America

This Majik Water proof of concept prototype "hacks" existing technology to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air using solar technology. (Photo courtesy Majik Water) Posted for media use

This Majik Water proof of concept prototype “hacks” existing technology to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air using solar technology. (Photo courtesy Majik Water) Posted for media use

Anastasia Kaschenko, 23, of Canada, has already founded three sustainability ventures, raising more than $60,000 to seed those projects. She was on a finalist team competing in the $20 million Carbon XPRIZE. Kaschenko was recently selected as a Singularity University Fellow, at NASA Ames Research Center  in MountainView, California. There, she launched Majik Water, which harvests clean drinking water from air. Majik Water received the MIT Water Innovation Award and was recognized by “Financial Times” as one of 50 Ideas to Change the World.

Majik Water uses novel technology combined with locally-adapted design to harvest clean drinking water from the air and deliver it to people and communities in the world’s driest places, starting in Kenya.

Majik technology uses solar thermal energy and abundantly available, non-toxic, sponge-like desiccant materials, to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air, making it possible to get water in a low cost, energy efficient way.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Gator Halpern, 27, of the Bahamas, spent time as a teenager living with indigenous Mayan communities, where he learned that he wanted to devote his life “to protecting the environment from the forces threatening their livelihoods.”

Halpern calls his big idea Coral Vita, the creation of land-based coral farms to restore and sustain the world’s coral reefs.

“Over 30 percent of global coral reefs are dead, and more than 75 percent are projected to die by 2050. This is an ecological tragedy and a serious socio-economic problem, as reefs sustain one-third of all marine life, support some one billion people globally, and generate US$30 billion annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection,” says Halpern.

Coral Vita is creating a global network of innovative land-based coral farms, using breakthrough methods developed at the Mote Marine Lab and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology to grow corals up to 50 times faster while strengthening their resiliency to climate change. The land-based farms are scalable, potentially growing millions of corals from a single site. Coral Vita’s business model can support restoration at unprecedented scales. By taking a community-based approach, locals are engaged to promote long-term reef stewardship.

West Asia

Karim Shrayedeh, 29, of Jordan, is the current Project Proposals Writer of The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, the largest and oldest nonprofit organization in Jordan.

Shrayedeh’s big idea is the Protection of Water Dams in Jordan that aims to protect the environment by increasing vegetation coverage in the catchment areas of two dams that supply Jordan’s capital city Amman and Al-Karak with water.

“Both the Wadi Almujab and Wadi Al-Karak dams are facing increased accumulation of sand and other sediments. This has diminished their storage capacities, threatening vital supplies of water to agriculture. Without the dam water, farmers will be forced to tap precious limited groundwater resources, an unsustainable scenario,” says Sharayedeh.

Jordanians and Syrian refugees will be employed for a total of 75,000 working days to increase vegetation coverage in the catchment areas, creating new job opportunities, enhancing social inclusion and fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the maintenance of the dams and their catchment areas.

The 35 finalists were selected from a pool of 760 submitted project ideas across a wide spectrum of impact areas.

The review of applications was conducted by a global team of 20 UN Environment staff in conjunction with representatives and affiliates of CoalitionWILD.

The Young Champions competition is supported by Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies. Covestro CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann said, “As one of the world’s leading contributors of materials for sustainable development, we’re honored to partner with UN Environment to inspire and motivate young people across the world to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”


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Twin Satellites Track Global Freshwater Trends

Cataract Falls, Mount Tamalpais, California March 1, 2009 (Photo by Alan Grinberg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Cataract Falls, Mount Tamalpais, California March 1, 2009 (Photo by Alan Grinberg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

GREENBELT, Maryland, May 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Earth’s wet land areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting drier due to a range of factors, including human water management, climate change and natural cycles.

In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists have combined an array of NASA satellite observations of Earth with data on human activities to map locations where freshwater is changing around the globe and to determine why.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal “Nature.

Matt Rodell analyzes GRACE data at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. (Photo by Bill Hrybyk / NASA) Public domain

Matt Rodell analyzes GRACE data at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (Photo by Bill Hrybyk / NASA) Public domain

A team led by Matt Rodell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, used 14 years of observations from the U.S./German-led Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft mission to track global trends in freshwater in 34 regions around the world.

To understand why these trends emerged, they needed to pull in satellite precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project, NASA/U.S. Geological Survey Landsat imagery, irrigation maps, and published reports of human activities related to agriculture, mining and reservoir operations.

Only through analysis of the combined data sets were the scientists able to get a full understanding of the reasons for Earth’s freshwater changes as well as the sizes of those trends.

Launched in 2002 as a joint mission with NASA and the German Aerospace Center <dlr.de/en>, the identical twin GRACE satellites weighed Earth’s fresh water from space. The satellites respond to changes in Earth’s gravitation field that signal shifts in the movement of water across and under Earth’s surface.

“This is the first time that we’ve used observations from multiple satellites in a thorough assessment of how freshwater availability is changing, everywhere on Earth,” said Rodell.

“A key goal was to distinguish shifts in terrestrial water storage caused by natural variability – wet periods and dry periods associated with El Niño and La Niña, for example – from trends related to climate change or human impacts, like pumping groundwater out of an aquifer faster than it is replenished,” he said.

“Accurate accounting of changes in freshwater availability is essential for predicting regional food supplies, human and ecosystem health, energy generation and social unrest,” the authors write. “Groundwater is particularly difficult to monitor and manage because aquifers are vast and unseen, yet groundwater meets the domestic needs of roughly half of the world’s population and boosts food supply by providing for 38 percent of global consumptive irrigation water demand.”

“Nearly two-thirds of terrestrial aquatic habitats are being increasingly threatened, while the precipitation and river discharge that support them are becoming more variable. A recent study estimates that almost five billion people live in areas where threats to water security are likely – a situation that will only be exacerbated by climate change, population growth and human activities,” the authors state, concluding, “The key environmental challenge of the 21st century may be the globally sustainable management of water resources.”

Twin satellites launched in March 2002, made detailed measurements of Earth's gravity field which are leading to discoveries about gravity and Earth's freshwater systems that could have far-reaching benefits to society and the world's population. Artist's concept of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) Public domain

Twin satellites launched in March 2002, made detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field which are leading to discoveries about gravity and Earth’s freshwater systems that could have far-reaching benefits to society and the world’s population. Artist’s concept of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) Public domain

“What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change,” said co-author Jay Famiglietti from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We see a distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter – those are the high latitudes and the tropics – and the dry areas in between getting dryer. Embedded within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.”

“GRACE is not looking at the ground,” says Famiglietti, now at the University of California-Irvine. “It’s feeling the ground.”

Famiglietti commented that while water loss in some regions, like the melting ice sheets and alpine glaciers, is clearly driven by warming climate, it will require more time and data to determine the driving forces behind other patterns of freshwater change.

“The pattern of wet-getting-wetter, dry-getting-drier during the rest of the 21st century is predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models, but we’ll need a much longer dataset to be able to definitively say whether climate change is responsible for the emergence of any similar pattern in the GRACE data,” he said.

But the GRACE satellite observations alone cannot tell Rodell, Famiglietti and their colleagues what was causing the apparent trends.

“We examined information on precipitation, agriculture and groundwater pumping to find a possible explanation for the trends estimated from GRACE,” said co-author Hiroko Beaudoing of Goddard and the University of Maryland in College Park.

For instance, although pumping groundwater for agricultural uses is a significant contributor to freshwater depletion throughout the world, groundwater levels are also sensitive to cycles of persistent drought or rainy conditions.

Famiglietti noted that such a combination was likely the cause of the groundwater depletion observed in California’s Central Valley from 2007 to 2015, when decreased groundwater replenishment from rain and snowfall combined with increased pumping for agriculture.

Southwestern California lost four gigatons of freshwater per year during the same period. A gigaton of water would fill 400,000 Olympic swimming pools.

A majority of California’s freshwater comes in the form of rainfall and snow that collect in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and then is managed as it melts into surface waters through a series of reservoirs. When natural cycles lead to less precipitation and cause diminished snowpack and surface waters, people rely on groundwater more heavily.

Downward trends in freshwater seen in Saudi Arabia also reflect agricultural pressures. From 2002 to 2016, the region lost 6.1 gigatons per year of stored groundwater. Imagery from Landsat satellites shows an explosive growth of irrigated farmland in the arid landscape from 1987 to the present, which may explain the increased drawdown.

The team’s analyses also identified large, decade-long trends in terrestrial freshwater storage that do not appear to be directly related to human activities. Natural cycles of high or low rainfall can cause a trend that is unlikely to persist, Rodell said.

An example is Africa’s western Zambezi basin and Okavango Delta, a vital watering hole for wildlife in northern Botswana. In this region, water storage increased at an average rate of 29 gigatons per year from 2002 to 2016. This wet period during the GRACE mission followed at least two decades of dryness. Rodell believes it is a case of natural variability that occurs over decades in this region of Africa.

The successor to GRACE, called GRACE Follow-On, a joint mission with the German Research Centre for Geosciences , currently is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California undergoing final preparations for launch no earlier than May 22.

Featured Image: Dust storm heading for Mungeranie, South Australia January 31, 2010 (Photo by Sydney Oats) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Restoring Ruined Lands Reverses Trail of Misery

Excessive erosion on the U.S. Prairie. An inch of soil can take hundreds of years to form, but it can be swept away in a few seasons. Sediment loads in rivers silt up fish spawning beds, degrade drinking water quality, and cause silting of productive estuaries and reservoirs. March 27, 2017 (Photo by Rick Bohn / U.S. Fish & Wwildlife Service) Public domain

Excessive erosion on the U.S. Prairie. An inch of soil can take hundreds of years to form, but it can be swept away in a few seasons. Sediment loads in rivers silt up fish spawning beds, degrade drinking water quality, and cause silting of productive estuaries and reservoirs. March 27, 2017 (Photo by Rick Bohn / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

MEDELLIN, Colombia, April 3, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Human activities are degrading lands throughout the world, undermining the well-being of billions of people, driving mass migrations and violent conflicts, species extinctions and climate change, finds the world’s first comprehensive evidence-based assessment of land degradation and restoration.

Land degradation is now reaching “critical” levels in many parts of the world, the report warns.

Produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the report was approved at the IPBES Plenary in Medellín in March by the 129 IPBES member governments.

The dangers of land degradation, together with a catalogue of corrective options, are detailed for policymakers in the three-year assessment report by more than 100 experts from 45 countries.

The report draws on more than 3,000 scientific, government, indigenous and local knowledge sources. Extensively peer-reviewed, it was improved by thousands of comments from over 200 external reviewers.

 Sir Robert Watson, who chairs the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, is a British chemist who has worked on atmospheric science issues - ozone depletion, global warming and paleoclimatology - since the 1980s. February 2018 (Photo by NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Sir Robert Watson, who chairs the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, is a British chemist who has worked on atmospheric science issues – ozone depletion, global warming and paleoclimatology – since the 1980s. February 2018 (Photo by NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet) Creative Commons license via Flickr

“Through this report, the global community of experts has delivered a frank and urgent warning, with clear options to address dire environmental damage,” said IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson.

“Land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment,” he said.

“We cannot afford to tackle any one of these three threats in isolation. They each deserve the highest policy priority and must be addressed together,” urged Sir Robert.

Dangerous to Humans and Wildlife

“With negative impacts on the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, the degradation of the Earth’s land surface through human activities is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction,” said Professor Robert Scholes of South Africa, co-chair of the assessment with Dr. Luca Montanarella of Italy.

Rapid expansion and unsustainable management of croplands and grazing lands is the most extensive global driver of land degradation, causing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services – food security, water purification, the provision of energy and other essential contributions of nature.

“Avoiding, reducing and reversing this problem, and restoring degraded land, is an urgent priority to protect the biodiversity and ecosystem services vital to all life on Earth and to ensure human well-being,” said Scholes.

“Wetlands have been particularly hard hit,” said Dr. Montanarella. “We have seen losses of 87 percent in wetland areas since the start of the modern era – with 54 percent lost since 1900.”

Land degradation manifests in many ways: land abandonment, declining populations of wild species, loss of soil and soil health, rangelands and fresh water, as well as deforestation.

Less than one quarter of the Earth’s land surface remains free from substantial human impacts, the report finds. By 2050 it is estimated that this will drop to less than 10 percent – and this will be mostly in deserts, mountainous areas, tundra and polar areas unsuitable for human use or settlement.

Habitat loss through transformation, and the decline in suitability of the remaining habitat through degradation, are the leading causes of biodiversity loss.

Between 1970 and 2012, the index of the average population size of wild land-based species of vertebrates dropped by 38 percent and freshwater species by 81 percent.

Who’s to Blame?

Underlying drivers of land degradation, says the report, are the high-consumption lifestyles in the most developed economies, combined with rising consumption in developing and emerging economies.

High and rising per capita consumption, amplified by continued population growth in many parts of the world, can drive unsustainable levels of agricultural expansion, natural resource and mineral extraction, and urbanization – typically leading to greater levels of land degradation.

Every five percent loss of gross domestic product, itself partly caused by degradation, is associated with a 12 percent increase in the likelihood of violent conflict.

Crop and grazing lands now cover more than one third of the Earth’s land surface, with recent clearance of native habitats, including forests, grasslands and wetlands, concentrated in some of the most species-rich ecosystems on the planet.

The report says increasing demand for food and biofuels will likely lead to continued increase in nutrient and chemical inputs and a shift towards industrialized livestock production systems, with pesticide and fertilizer use expected to double by 2050.

Avoidance of further agricultural expansion into native habitats can be achieved through yield increases on the existing farmlands, shifts towards less land degrading diets, such as those with more plant-based foods and less animal protein from unsustainable sources, and reductions in food loss and waste.

Strong Links to Climate Change

The IPBES report finds that land degradation is a major contributor to climate change, with deforestation alone contributing about 10 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Another major driver of the changing climate has been the release of carbon previously stored in the soil, with land degradation between 2000 and 2009 responsible for annual global emissions of up to 4.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Given the importance of soil’s carbon absorption and storage functions, the avoidance, reduction and reversal of land degradation could provide more than a third of the most cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation activities needed by 2030 to keep global warming under the 2°C threshold targeted in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Human Health and Water Stress

Four-fifths of the world’s population now lives in areas where there is a threat to water security.

Transformation of natural ecosystems to human use can increase the risk of human diseases such as Ebola, monkey pox and Marburg virus, some of which have become global health risks by bringing people into more frequent contact with pathogens capable of transferring from wild to human hosts.

Modifications in hydrological regimes affect the prevalence of pathogens and vents that spread disease.

Land degradation generally increases the number of people exposed to hazardous air, water and land pollution, particularly in developing countries, with the worst-off countries recording rates of pollution-related loss of life higher than those in wealthy countries, the assessment shows.

Land degradation generally harms psychological well-being by reducing benefits to mental balance, attention, inspiration and healing. It has particularly negative impacts on the mental health and spiritual well-being of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Land degradation, especially in coastal and riparian areas, increases the risk of storm damage, flooding and landslides, with high socio-economic and human costs.

Land restoration also can increase food and water security and contribute to the avoidance of conflict and migration.

Looking Ahead to 2050

“In just over three decades from now, an estimated four billion people will live in drylands,” said Scholes. “By then it is likely that land degradation, together with the closely related problems of climate change, will have forced 50-700 million people to migrate.”

“Decreasing land productivity also makes societies more vulnerable to social instability – particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45 percent in violent conflict,” he said.

Dr. Montanarella forecast, “By 2050, the combination of land degradation and climate change is predicted to reduce global crop yields by an average of 10 percent, and by up to 50 percent in some regions.

She pinpointed the locations where the worst land degradation would occur. “In the future,” she said, “most degradation will occur in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia – the areas with the most land still remaining that is suitable for agriculture.”

The report also underlines the challenges that land degradation poses, and the importance of restoration, for key international development objectives, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

“The greatest value of the assessment is the evidence that it provides to decision makers in government, business, academia and even at the level of local communities,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of IPBES.

“With better information, backed by the consensus of the world’s leading experts, we can all make better choices for more effective action,” she said.

Restoration Options Do Exist

The report points to successful examples of land restoration that are found in every ecosystem, and the many well-tested practices and techniques, both traditional and modern, that can avoid or reverse degradation.

In croplands, soil loss can be reduced and soil health improved with the use of salt tolerant crops, conservation agriculture and integrated crop, livestock and forestry systems.

On rangelands, traditional grazing, maintenance of appropriate fire regimes, and the reinstatement or development of local livestock management practices and institutions have proven effective.

Successful responses in wetlands include control over pollution sources, managing the wetlands as part of the landscape, and reflooding wetlands damaged by draining.

In urban areas, spatial planning, replanting with native species, the development of “green infrastructure” such as parks and riverways, remediation of contaminated soils and those sealed under asphalt, wastewater treatment and river channel restoration are identified as key options for action.


BUSINESS_SERVICES

Increasing Resilience, Improving Quality of Life

barkafoundation

How an NGO, BARKA, increases resilience, improves quality of life, and empowers people in Burkina Faso. NGOs do make a difference.

Burkina Faso, West Africa, February 7, 2018 – Maximpact Training Network would like to present one of its trainees in Grant Proposal Writing, and show how BARKA Foundation is improving people’s and communities’ lives.

BARKA is affiliated with the United Nations and has Special Consultative Status with the UN’s Economic and Social Affairs Division (ECOSOC). It is a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization established in 2006 in the United States. In 2009, they registered as a local country-based organization in Burkina Faso.

BARKA’s international development work is focused solely in Burkina Faso, West Africa. BARKA Foundation currently works with 9 village communities in the Eastern Region of Burkina Faso. Our approach is community-led and long-term. We continue to walk along side villagers long after a project is completed, which often leads to other much needed services in related areas. For example, in 2016, BARKA began developing a sustainable agriculture project with two villages where it had previously drilled a well. The water from those wells will be used to irrigate the new gardens during the long dry season and combat both malnutrition and the devastating effects of climate change.

The NGO has recently completed its largest project to date to improve access to water in 4 villages, introduce and improve sanitations in 4 rural primary schools and raise awareness of basic hygiene principals at the community level in 5 villages.

Burkina Faso

Barka’s areas of focus are:

  • Water: providing access to clean water, improving sanitation and hygiene education for schools and communities
  • Women: empowering women and girls with various projects and  programs
  • Agroecology: helping local farmers combat climate change through agroecology and sustainable agriculture
  • Reciprocity: BARKA serves as a bridge between individuals, schools and communities of Burkina Faso and the United States to facilitate greater understanding, cultural exchange and the co-creation of a culture of peace.

Barka Impact

For more information on BARKA Foundation visit www.barkafoundation.org to make a tax-deductible donation

Donate in-kind services: technology, accounting services, web services, design, marketing.


Featured image: ‘A girl carries water home on a bike’ image from BARKA foundation website – Monitoring and Evaluation. 

ImproveYourBusinesswritingskills_campaign

COP23 Fertilizes Climate-Smart Agriculture

COP23LeadersHighLevel

COP23 leaders, from left: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa of Brazil; President Emmanuel Macron, France; Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and COP 23 president; Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany; and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of the High-Level Segment of the conference, November 15, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – New commitments and initiatives in the agriculture and water sectors were announced as nearly 200 countries gathered at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) hosted by the government of Fiji in Bonn, November 6-17.

Delegates made concrete progress on turning the historic 2015 Paris Agreement into action on the ground across the world, ahead of next year’s UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland.

COP23 delegates aimed at motivating greater climate action by public and private stakeholders as the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, enables countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

About one degree of that rise has already happened, increasing the pressure on governments and the private sector to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

For the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations, governments reached an agreement on agriculture that will help countries develop and implement new strategies to both reduce emissions from agriculture and build resilience to the effects of climate change.

“Agriculture is a key factor for the sustainability of rural areas, the responsibility for food security and its potential to offer climate change solutions is enormous,” said Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture.

Investing more quickly and broadly in agricultural climate action and to support the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to curb emissions and protect people against climate change, sector leaders and experts said.

New COP23 initiatives include a US$400 million fund established by the Government of Norway and the corporation Unilever for public and private investment in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.

The European Investment Bank will provide US$75 million for a new US$405 million investment program by the Water Authority of Fiji. The plan will strengthen resilience of water distribution and wastewater treatment following Cyclone Winston, the world’s second strongest storm ever recorded, which hit Fiji in February 2016.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development signed up to free US$37.6 million of GCF grant financing in the US$243.1 million Saïss Water Conservation Project to make Moroccan agriculture more resilient.

The nonprofit World Resources Institute announced a landmark US$2.1 billion of private investment to restore degraded lands in Latin America and the Caribbean through Initiative 20×20.

“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  at a high-level event on hunger at the conference.

“To achieve SDG2 and effectively respond to climate change, we require a transformation of our agriculture sectors and food systems,” he said.

According to FAO’s “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017” report, hunger has grown for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. An estimated 815 million people are now hungry.

Extreme climate impacts come down hard on small-scale farmers and pastoralists as well as fishing and forest communities, who still provide the bulk of the planet’s food.

Supporting these communities with innovative solutions to reduce their emissions and protect their communities meets many of the objectives of every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. They are also the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.

“The rural poor are part of a comprehensive response to climate change,” said da Silva. “They are key agents of change who need to be strengthened in their roles as stewards of biodiversity, natural resources and vital ecosystem services.”

Requests to direct more resources to the agriculture sector as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were made during Agriculture Action Day November 10.

“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, FAO assistant-director general.

In the livestock sector, for example, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

At COP23, the FAO released a new “Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture,” which recommends scaling up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, spurring public-private partnerships, strengthening a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue, investing in knowledge and information, and building capacity to address barriers to climate action.

The book features knowledge and stories about on-the-ground projects to guide policymakers and program managers to make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive, while contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity.

The COP23 meeting agreed that land needs to be managed in ways to increase soil carbon, particularly in grasslands, and that robust protocols for assessing and monitoring carbon stocks need to be developed with stakeholders.

Rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to some estimates.

For the livestock sector, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

Tom Driscoll, director of conservation policy with the U.S. National Farmers Union, says, “Farming is one of the few professions with the ability to not only reduce ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, but to also remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. National Farmers Union supports policies and programs that maximize agriculture’s GHG elimination potential by offering value to farmers for either climate-smart or emissions-reducing and carbon-sinking production and conservation practices.”

Cap-and-trade programs, which limit ongoing emissions from major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are one means of offering farmers value for climate-smart practices.

Cap-and-trade programs can drive emissions reductions where they can happen in the most cost-effective manner, and farmers can often achieve emissions reductions and sequester atmospheric greenhouse gases for less money than the emitters these programs primarily regulate, says Driscoll on the NFU website.

The state of California has implemented a cap-and-trade program that allows for the creation and transfer-for-value of offset credits that meet regulatory criteria. Regulated entities may meet up to eight percent of their triennial compliance requirements by purchasing these credits.

In California, each credit must be quantified using a compliance offset protocol approved by the California Air Resources Board. Currently, ARB will approve credits some U.S. farmers create by capturing and destroying methane from manure management systems.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), an organizer of COP23’s Agriculture Action day, announced that the Coalition will work in the next few years to create the conditions for greater agricultural climate action.

The voluntary partnership of more than 100 governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations aims to help give countries the confidence to set realistic yet ambitious targets through the next revision of their national climate plans – the Nationally Determined Contributions.

“Agriculture is a large source of powerful greenhouse gases like methane and other short-lived climate pollutants but has great potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in our lifetime, that’s why we support and advocate for countries to improve their livestock emissions inventories,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the CCAC Secretariat.

CCAC partners signed onto the Coalition’s Bonn Communiqué which prioritizes initiatives to reduce methane and black carbon emissions from agriculture and municipal solid waste.

These initiatives support broader efforts to reduce air pollution, end hunger, and build sustainable cities and communities, while helping to limit global warming.

James Shaw, New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, said he was pleased with the Communiqué’s focus on agriculture as it was a large source of his country’s greenhouse gases.

“We hope this encourages partners to develop policies to reduce emissions from agriculture, while at the same time improving the productivity, resilience and profitability of farmers,” said Shaw.

Other agriculture-based solutions for addressing climate change were also presented at COP23. Discussions involved people from governments, civil society, the private sector, small scale and young farmers centered on livestock, traditional agriculture systems, water, soil, food loss and waste, and integrated landscape management.

Among the recommended actions and initiatives were to:

  • Scale up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, and use them in a catalytic manner. Climate finance flows continue to favor mitigation over adaptation, and focus overwhelmingly on energy systems and infrastructure. These imbalances should be addressed.
  • Incentivize public-private partnerships. Strong dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors is key to ensure alignment between public policy and private sector investment decisions in agriculture and throughout the entire food system.
  • Strengthen a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue towards more integrated approaches to landscape management. This will require enhanced coordination of policy and climate action across multiple public and private entities.
  • Invest in knowledge and information. Additional analyses are needed to better identify the institutional barriers and market failures that are inhibiting broader adoption of climate-resilient and low-emissions agricultural practices in individual countries, regions and communities.
  • Build capacity to address barriers to implement climate action. Agricultural producers require additional capacities to understand the climate risks and vulnerabilities they face, and respond accordingly.

In the water sector, most national climate plans with an adaptation component prioritize action on water, yet financing would need to triple to US$295 billion per year to meet such targets, said experts at COP23.

“Sustainable use of water for multiple purposes must remain a way of life and needs to be at the center of building resilient cities and human settlements and ensuring food security in a climate change context,” said Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, president of the Women for Water Partnership.

The international water community co-signed what it called a “nature based solution declaration” to encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.

Around 40 percent of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050, accelerating migration and triggering onflict, while some regions could lose up to six percent of their economic output, unless water is better managed, warned Verhoef-Cohen.

She said, “Involving both women and men in decision making and integrated water resources initiatives leads to better sustainability, governance and efficiency.”


2-DAY GRANT

Featured Image: G.H. MUMM champagne 2017 harvest in champagne vineyard near Verzenay, France, September 7, 2017 (Photo by Intercontinental Hong Kong) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Climate-Neutral COP23 Aims for Sustainability

ElectricBusBonn

Bonn’s electric buses will transport conference attendees around the city free of greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – This year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which opened Monday and continues through November 17 under the presidency of Fiji, gives nations an opportunity to showcase their own climate actions at this “climate-neutral” event.

Up to 25,000 people are expected to participate in the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, known as COP23, including government delegates, representatives of observer organizations, businesses and journalists.

One year has passed since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015. The agreement allows countries to make individual pledges of action to reverse climate change, called Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise of the global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

These goals appear increasingly difficult to achieve. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization announced that atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, had surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

A new report from the UN Environment agency finds that even full implementation of current unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions makes a temperature increase of at least 3 degrees C by 2100 very likely.

The 8th edition of UN Environment’s Emissions Gap report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, finds that national pledges only bring a third of the reduction in emissions required by 2030 to meet climate targets, with private sector and sub-national action not increasing at a rate that would help close this worrying gap.

This means that governments must deliver much stronger pledges when they are revised in 2020.

The organizers of COP23 have made sustainability the watchword of this year’s annual conference. In this context, unless stated differently, organizers say, the term sustainability refers to the environmental dimension of sustainable development as defined in 1987 by “Our Common Future,” the Brundtland Report, from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development.

The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To that end, COP23 organizers are managing transport, waste management, catering, energy and offsetting, providing clean transportation and clean electricity to the greatest extent possible.

The COP23 Sustainability Taskforce estimates that most emissions caused by COP 23 are the result of transport, with delegates’ international travel responsible for the largest share.

Emissions from local travel will be reduced by renewable energy-powered electric vehicle shuttles that will transfer delegates between the two conference zones, Bula and Bonn.

The conference venue itself will be managed sustainably, including its use of resources such as energy, waste and water.

“The most important aspect is that local public transportation is free of charge for all registered participants from Parties, observer organizations and media,” says Dennis Winkler, who heads the COP 23 Sustainability Taskforce and is responsible for the sustainability of UN climate change conferences.

“Also, 600 bikes will be provided free of charge for participants to get from one conference zone to another, or even to the city,” Winkler said.

The city of Bonn has several electric and hybrid buses in service and special electric COP 23 shuttles, running on 100 percent renewable energy, will connect a brand-new UN Campus train stop with the nearby metro stop and the two conference zones.

“We think it is important for there to be electric transport at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, as it absolutely meets the key goals of COP23,” says Anja Wenmakers of Bonn’s public transport provider, Stadtwerke-Bonn. “We are committed to supporting climate action goals and believe that public transport in general can make an important contribution to quickly achieving these goals.”

In addition, a shuttle service with smaller electric vehicles through the Rheinaue Park will be organized by the German Environment Ministry. Electric buses will be clearly identified with a special label.

In an effort to use energy efficiently, COP23 organizers are seeking to keep all indoor areas at an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, and not warmer. Participants are requested to turn off room lights and ventilation as well as ICT equipment when not in use.

In addition to maximizing energy efficiency, the organizers are making sure that the energy that is used in buildings is from renewable sources when possible.

“We have a target of 80 percent renewable energy all over the conference,” said Winkler. He and his team will have to make an assessment of whether this target has been reached at the end of the conference.

The UNFCCC Secretariat runs on 100 percent renewable energy, some of it sourced from solar panels on the roof of its headquarters building.

In a another effort to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport, the UNFCCC has announced a partnership with Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd, which aims to promote the use of biofuels as lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

When COP23 is over on November 17, the UNFCCC Sustainability Taskforce will calculate the overall greenhouse gas footprint of all aspects of the conference, including travel, food, local transport and accommodation.

Their calculations will be verified under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. All unavoidable emissions resulting from COP23 will be offset.

The Government of Germany has committed to the purchase of certified emission credits, preferably from Clean Development Mechanism projects registered in small island developing States, in recognition of the Fijian Presidency of COP 23.

“The human suffering caused by intensifying hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods and threats to food security caused by climate change means there is no time to waste,” said Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, who took over as president of the COP23 conference from Morocco during the opening.

“We must preserve the global consensus for decisive action enshrined in the Paris Agreement and aim for the most ambitious part of that target – to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above that of the pre-industrial age,” he said. “Wherever we live, we are all vulnerable and need to act.”

COP23 is structured according to the principle of one conference, two zones. The UN intergovernmental negotiations take place in Zone Bula, a Fijian word expressing warm welcome.

Negotiating countries plan to design and launch the Talanoa dialogue, named after the spirit of open exchange and constructive debate of Pacific island nations, to run during 2018.

The dialogue will conclude at COP24 in Poland next year with the aim of setting the stage for a more ambitious response that better reflects the scientific state of climate change during 2019-2020.

Governments will work on the Paris Agreement’s operating system – the detailed ways and means to assist all governments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement now and in the future.

“Fiji is helping build a Grand Coalition for decisive, coordinated action by governments at every level, by civil society, the private sector and all citizens on Earth,” said Bainimarama. “That’s why we installed an ocean-going Fijian ‘drua’ canoe in the entrance here to remind everyone of the need to fill its sail with collective determination to make COP23 a success and confront the biggest challenge humanity has faced.”

Featured Image: COP23 dignitaries ride bicycles through the streets of Bonn, Germany ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). From right: Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji and COP23 president; Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC. Nov. 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Week for a Water Wise World

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri has developed the country’s first National Water Plan to protect Argentine clean water sources like this stream in Mendoza Province in the western central part of the country. (Photo courtesy Mendoza Government Press)

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri has developed the country’s first National Water Plan to protect Argentine clean water sources like this stream in Mendoza Province in the western central part of the country. (Photo courtesy Mendoza Government Press)

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 29, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Cool, clear, delicious water – there’s no substitute for the one substance on which all life depends. Yet, often there is too little clean water, or too much. These problems, and their solutions, are in the spotlight right now at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the theme of this year’s week-long conference, August 27-September 1, is “water and waste: reduce and reuse.”

“World Water Week is a key meeting place for the water and development community; it is here that we come together and make sure that the very best ideas are brought forward,” said SIWI’s Executive Director, Torgny Holmgren.

More than 3,000 participants from 130 countries have come to Stockholm to learn about new research results, share experiences, discuss progress in the implementation of the Global Sustainable Development Goals, and together try to find new ways to meet the world’s growing water challenges.

In his welcoming speech Holmgren said it will be challenging but necessary to change large-scale water consumption patterns.

“The week’s theme, Water and waste: Reduce and reuse, really touches the very core of our daily lives,” said Holmgren. “To reduce, some drastic changes will be necessary – especially by the main water users, including industries, energy producers and the agriculture sector.”

Changes are also needed in how we think about reuse of water, he said. “Rather than presenting us with a problem, we can view waste as an asset also becoming a business opportunity.”

Sweden’s Minister for Environment, Karolina Skog told the audience that sustainable and efficient management of water and wastewater profoundly touches “all aspects of human life; economic growth, sustainable development, sustainable city planning, circular thinking in industry and in production, energy saving, good quality of our water and, last but not least, it is crucial for health and for a sustainable environment.”

This year, an astronaut is among the speakers at World Water Week. Physicist Christer Fuglesang, a Member of the Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science and a European Space Agency astronaut, was first launched aboard the STS-116 Space Shuttle mission on December 10, 2006, making him the first Swedish citizen in space. He has participated in two Space Shuttle missions and five spacewalks, giving him a unique perspective on planet Earth.

Fuglesang described the intricate water reuse systems that are essential to space missions. Water enables food to be grown on board space ships, ensures a drinking water supply for the crew, and helps to inform research into optimized water efficiency on Earth.

Stephen McCaffrey, 2017 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate and a professor in water law, spoke of the need for water cooperation and water diplomacy.

He told World Water Week attendees that although the ingredients for potential water conflicts do exist, such as higher population pressure, climate change, and much of the world’s fresh water being shared by two or more countries, studies show that water sharing is much more likely to lead to cooperation than conflict.

H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, patron of the Stockholm Water Prize, will present the 2017 Prize, which includes a US150,000 award, to Distinguished Professor of Law Stephen McCaffrey, McGeorge School of Law, at the Royal Banquet in Stockholm City Hall on August 30.

Professor McCaffrey was named 2017 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate “for his unparalleled contribution to the evolution and progressive realization of international water law,” the selection committee said. He is the only lawyer ever to receive the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize.

Since 1977, McCaffrey has served on the faculty of the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California. He was Special Rapporteur for the International Law Commission’s work on The Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, 1985-1991.

Professor McCaffrey has been acting as legal counsel to governments in several negotiations concerning international watercourses.

The cases include watercourses in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Although he has experienced first-hand the potential conflicts over freshwater resources, he remains an optimist, pointing to studies that have shown that shared fresh water is generally a catalyst for cooperation rather than conflict.

“I believe nobody who studies, researches or practices in the field of transboundary water management, water law or diplomacy could be unaware of Professor McCaffrey’s contribution to the conceptual and practical elaboration of the many legal concepts and principles that we now take for granted,” said Holmgren.

There’s no doubt that we need all the expertise we can get to keep clean water flowing in the right proportions to everyone in need.

More than two billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people are living in countries with excess water stress, according to a May 2017 report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals –Economic and Social Council.

Water stress means more than 25 percent of total renewable freshwater resources is withdrawn to meet ongoing needs. Northern Africa and Western Asia experience water stress levels above 60 percent, which indicates the strong probability of future water scarcity, Guterres warns in the report.

Flooding is the opposite, but even more serious problem, as the dramatic water rescues in Texas from the catastrophic floods from Hurricane Harvey this week painfully demonstrate.

The connections between water stress, flooding and climate change are among the many issues subject to in-depth review at World Water Week. Some are:

Water and climate: Climate change is to a large extent water change. Water disasters account for more than 90 percent of the natural disasters in the world and climate-driven water hazards, water scarcity and variability pose risks to all economic activity, such as food and energy production, manufacturing and infrastructure development, as well as political stability. This is true for both high and low income countries. Resilience to climate change requires adaptive water management and robust water infrastructure to keep ecosystems healthy.

Water as connector between the SDGs and the Paris Agreement: In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the water and sanitation SDG (Goal 6) links across all the other 16 Goals with a great number of water related targets in the overall Agenda; making water a key underlying factor and entry point for the successful implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda.

Drinking water and sanitation: The global water and sanitation crisis is mainly rooted in poverty, power and inequality, not in physical water scarcity, say World Water Week organizers. “It is, first and foremost, a crisis of governance. Poor resources management, corruption, lack of appropriate institutions, bureaucratic inertia, and insufficient capacity lie in many places behind the lack of sustainability of services, which also undermine the arrival of new investments.”

Water security: To manage the global rise in demand for water and to increase water productivity, incentives for using water more effectively are necessary. Water needs to be given its true value for production purposes in the energy, industry and agriculture sectors.

On pricing of water and valuing water: Water needs to be better valued. Some parts of this value can easily be reflected in a price, others cannot. So, water pricing needs to be complemented with laws, standards and an increase in public awareness. World Water Week organizers point to the need to make sure that basic water services are affordable to the poorest people, respecting the human right to water and sanitation

Innovative financing and green bonds: Billions in sustainable and climate smart financing will be needed for both supplying water and treating waste water, but an investment in climate-proof infrastructure today will be offset by a future reduced need for emergency response measures to counter floods and droughts.

Water cooperation: Development needs cooperation. Cooperation over transboundary waters would spur regional development, improve resilience to climate change, and decrease the risk of geopolitical hostility. The political aspects of transboundary cooperation cannot be neglected if real progress is to be made.

Water and migration: Researchers and policymakers are increasingly seeking to explain migration and refugee flows in terms of water scarcity, often perpetuated by climate change. The links between water challenges and climate change increase  uncertainty. While they are not the main causes of large-scale population migration, they are “push factor multipliers” together with social, economic, and political factors.

Water and faith: Water has profound symbolic meaning in many religious and local traditions, yet water stress is acute in many parts of the world where faith is a central aspect of individual and community identity. The role of Faith Based Organizations becomes crucial given their presence and influence in local communities.

Resolving these problems takes skill, cooperation and patience, and also lots of money. In a new report launched today at World Water Week, the World Bank estimates how much it will cost.

“Reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of access to safely managed water and sanitation services by 2030 will require countries to spend $150 billion per year,” the report states, “a fourfold increase in water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) investments compared to what is spent today. This is out of reach for many countries, threatening progress on poverty eradication.”

The report, “Reducing Inequalities in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene in the Era of the Sustainable Development Goals,” suggests that a turnaround in the way countries manage resources and provide key services is required, starting with better targeting to ensure they reach those most in need, and tackling inefficiencies to make sure public services are sustainable and effective.

Guangzhe Chen, senior director of the Water Global Practice of the World Bank, said, “Millions are currently trapped in poverty by poor water supply and sanitation, which contributes to childhood stunting and debilitating diseases such as diarrhea. To give everyone an equal chance at reaching their full potential, more resources, targeted to areas of high vulnerability and low access, are needed to close the gaps and improve poor water and sanitation services. This report provides a roadmap for closing that gap.”

This report provides policymakers with a baseline and guidance on how to better target investments to ensure that basic water and sanitation services reach the poorest communities and households.

A lot depends on whether a person lives in a city or in a rural area. Across the 18 countries studied, 75 percent of people who lack improved sanitation live in rural areas, and only 20 percent of rural inhabitants have access to improved water.

Over two years in the field, the research teams found that:

  • In Nigeria, over 60 percent of the rural population live more than 30 minutes away from a working water source.
  • In Indonesia, only 5 percent of urban wastewater is safely treated and disposed of, and children living in communities with open defecation during the first 1,000 days of life are 11 percentage points more likely to be stunted.
  • In Bangladesh, E. coli was present in about 80 percent of water taps sampled, a similar rate to water scooped up from ponds.
  • In Ecuador, 24 percent of the rural population drinks contaminated water; 21 percent of children are stunted and 18 percent are underweight.
  • In Haiti, access to improved drinking water sources has declined in the last 25 years; access to improved sanitation is stagnant at 33 percent; and the number of households with access on premises to improved water has decreased from 15 to 7 percent.

Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank country director in Nigeria, warned, “Water and sanitation services need to improve dramatically, or the consequences on health and well-being will be dire. Today, diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under 5. Poor children also suffer from intestinal diseases, which together with under-nutrition and infections contribute to stunting. We are risking the futures of our children: their potential is being stymied by unequal or uneven access to the services they require to thrive.”

To download the 18 WASH Poverty Diagnostics reports click here

Another multi-lateral bank has a bold and encouraging word for those concerned about water and sanitation issues.

The Inter-American Development Bank, which is co-organizing Latin America’s contributions to World Water Week says, “Latin America and the Caribbean has the potential to lead a revolution in the management of wastewater as a resource by reusing it in agricultural and industrial activities, and by promoting circular economy models. The region can do all this while striving to meet Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – by the year 2030.”

Today 77 percent of all people in Latin America and the Caribbean lack access to safe sanitation. Only an estimated 28 percent of the wastewater collected by public sewers receives some kind of treatment before being discharged to the environment.

In Argentina, for instance, a country of 44 million people, 8.2 million lack access to drinking water and 20 million to sanitation. Investment needs to cover this access gap are estimated at US$21 billion.

Waste water treatment in Argentina is estimated at 20 percent. Most water utilities do not cover operational costs and struggle to provide quality services.

The country has been recently struck by extreme weather events that showcase the need for better water resources management.

To tackle these challenges, the new administration headed by President Mauricio Macri developed the country’s first National Water Plan. The plan is based on four pillars: access to water and sanitation; water and food; water and energy; and adaptation to extreme weather events.

Argentina’s plan advances a new regulatory framework that will help water utilities improve their financial situation. The new authorities are also promoting innovation and private sector participation that will help overcome these challenges.

The lack of water is one of the main constraints to agriculture in more than 60 percent of Argentina, and it is worse in places without access to electricity, according to Macri’s office.

To correct the water deficit in some regions, specialists from the National Institute of Industrial Technology developed technologies for access to groundwater through pumps that run on solar energy. The pumps, located more than 10 meters deep, have been installed in 22 communities across the country.

This small step forward illustrates that creative solutions to water scarcity do exist. This week in Stockholm, more than 3,000 experts are looking for ways to keep the creativity flowing.


Featured Image: Physicist Christer Fuglesang, a Member of the Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science and a European Space Agency astronaut, addresses conference attendees at the opening plenary, August 28, 2017 (Photo courtesy Stockholm International Water Institute) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Sacred Sites Strategize for Impact Investments

 Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. December 1999 (Photo by Ryan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. December 1999 (Photo by Ryan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, August 1, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Representatives of sacred places and cities that attract spiritual pilgrims are working with highly placed conservationists to create a dedicated fund for their environmental protection by relying on the investment community’s growing commitment to ethical or impact investment.

The altar at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, September 2009. (Photo by Jay-Ar Cruz) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

The altar at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, September 2009. (Photo by Jay-Ar Cruz) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In London last week, proposals totaling nearly a billion dollars were discussed in a meeting organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which was founded in 1995 by HRH Prince Philip.

ARC is a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programs, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices.

ARC now works with 11 major faiths, helping the religions link with key environmental organizations, creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups.

The event at The Wesley, the UK Methodists’ first eco-hotel in London, was co-hosted by R20, a not-for-profit, public-private partnership that envisions mobilizing the regions of the world to be leaders for green growth.

Founded in 2010 by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other subnational leaders in cooperation with the United Nations, R20’s mission is to support local governments in the creation and successful financing of renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure projects.

The projects chosen are ones that produce measurable environmental, social and economic benefits, as well as attractive financial returns for investors.

According to the R20 Executive Director Christophe Nuttall, “The investment community, which has already made great strides in ethical investment, is starting to realize that religions are producing structured investable projects in this area.”

The aim of the London meeting was to set up a structure for faiths to access impact investments.

Pioneering impact investor BlueOrchard, and R20, together with ARC, are proposing to build just such a dedicated fund for sacred places and pilgrim cities.

Based in Switzerland, BlueOrchard was founded in 2001 by the United Nations as the world’s first commercial manager of microfinance debt investments worldwide. BlueOrchard now has a total of seven offices on four continents.

To date, BlueOrchard has invested US$4 billion in 350 institutions across 70 countries, providing access to financial and related services to over 30 million low-income individuals.

On July 25, the BlueOrchard Microfinance Fund exceeded the US$1 billion investment mark for the first time since its inception in 1998.

“Having proven for almost two decades how social impact, outstanding financial returns and environmental developments go hand in hand, BlueOrchard has become the industry’s thought and innovation leader,” says Peter  Fanconi, who chairs BlueOrchard’s Board of Directors.

Inside a mosque in Fez, Morocco, January 2011. (Photo by Anna & Michal) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Inside a mosque in Fez, Morocco, January 2011. (Photo by Anna & Michal) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Ten pilgrim cities and sacred places were represented at the London meeting:

Naga, Cebu, Philippines: Catholic. The province of Cebu and Naga City are proposing to replace thousands of polluting tricycle vehicles with electric vehicles as the major form of transport to key pilgrimage sites such as the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.

Djerba Island, Tunisia: Muslim and Jewish business owners plan on developing infrastructure to accomodate pilgrim and tourist visits to sites such as the Ghriba Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Africa.

Etchmiadzin, Armenia: Orthodox Christian. Planning is underway for a model green pilgrimage city focusing on education, water and energy. Pilgrims come to see the oldest cathedral in the world, Etchmiadzin Cathedral, built in the early fourth century.

Fez, Morocco: Muslim. At more than 1,000 years old, Fez is considered the spiritual heartland of Morocco. The city is planning biogas collection for public lighting.

Fujaira, United Arab Emirates: Muslim. planning new pilgrimage and tourist facilities based on traditional Islamic architecture. Among other sacred sites, pilgrims come to visit the 500 year old Al Bidya Mosque, called the oldest, smallest and most beautiful mosque in UAE.

Jiangsu Province, China: Taoist. Chinese authorities want to replace old energy systems in 200 temples with high tech sustainable technologies that will be a model for other, secular development in China.

Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, India: Hindu. Two state governments are proposing sustainable financially viable ways to cope with the millions of pilgrims passing through to visit the tiger reserve, which forms the catchment area for 14 rivers and streams, including the Ganges. A core area of this reserve has been proposed as a national park.

Kano, Nigeria: Muslim. The largest Sufi pilgrimage site in Northern Africa, Kano hosts up to three million people at key times. The government is planning infrastructure and drinking water distribution programs.

Rameshwaram, India: Hindu. Separated from mainland India by the Pamban Channel, this town is the center of attraction for Hindu devotees across the world. Two of main attractions are the great Ramanathaswamy Temple, built in the 17th century, and the nearby Five Faced Hanuman temple. Businesses plan to overhaul transport, water and waste facilities for pilgrim visits to the island’s temples.

Zanzibar City, Tanzania: Muslim and Christian. The city is planning an eco-hotel and environmental education centre on abandoned land beside the UNESCO Heritage Site of Stone Town. Pilgrims come to visit the 500 year old Malindi Mosque, Zanzibar’s oldest, dated to the 15th century.

There were also three complementary business initiatives represented at the London meeting:

Amaravati Buddhist Centre, London, UK: Buddhist. This center is planning an eco-village for the 21st century on its wooded site in London.

Wesley Methodist Hotel Group, London, UK: Methodist Christian. This company is expanding its chain of award-winning eco-hotels to include the first-ever Methodist National Park, in Kenya.

Dartington, UK: Multi-faith. A 14th century historic house and substantial grounds and property are the central point for 40 organisations, including businesses, working on technological solutions to energy needs, agriculture, waste and water.

All 13 groups have produced business plans to attract investment for sustainable infrastructure enterprises.

A dedicated fund is needed, meeting participants agreed. In the short term this could help finance some or all of the attending projects. In the medium term this could finance up to 200 sustainable projects in different cities and places.

By 2030 this could grow to include 7,000 cities, some of which will be considered sacred, but others which will benefit from having local faith groups consult in investment plans, meeting organizers said.

While there is an increased interest in ethical, or impact investment from investors, meeting participants recognized that there is a real shortage of sustainable projects for sustainable funds to invest in around the world.

R20 and BlueOrchard have developed a unique value chain which, on the one hand, identifies and structures a portfolio of low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure projects up to bankability, and on the other hand, helps invest in these projects due to a de-risking blended finance mechanism with philanthropic, subsidies, equity and loans from both public and private banks.

R20, BlueOrchard, ARC and representatives of many of these projects will be taking part in the Faith in Finance meeting on October 29 in Zug, Switzerland. Find out more at: ArcWorld Projects


MAXIMPACT_

Featured Image: The Laozi-Jinshan Temple, with a gigantic statue of Laozi the legendary founder of Taoism (Photo courtesy Mao-shen, Sacred Taoist Mountain of Eastern China) Posted for media use

NGOs Grow With Maximpact’s Training-of-Trainers

Capacity building and NGO’s external benefits (accountability to donors and local communities)

For many years now, NGO sector has been acting as an agent of change empowering and fostering local communities towards sustainable socio-economic development.

NGO programs that focus on peace building, democratic governance, human rights as well as fighting poverty and inequality are implemented around the world.

Yet, no matter how many successful projects have been created, in the final phase of implementation the last challenge remains – ensuring project sustainability.

To increase the chances that activities and policies fostered by NGOs will be integrated and utilized within targeted community groups upon project completion, it is helpful to have people within the project target group who know how to maintain new practices and policies once the NGO staff has completed their mission.

One of the most effective ways to carry out this goal is capacity building.

Capacity building has become one of the most important measures for ensuring project sustainability and is requested by the donor community.

Building the capacity of NGOs and projects to change negative perceptions, inefficient practices, and harmful behavior of governments, decision makers and policy makers is an emerging requirement usually implemented by reputable, successful NGOs.

Ensuring that NGOs have the capacity to undertake this important outreach means training NGO staffers, who will then be able to effectively communicate with community members and train them to carry out the core necessary tasks to ensure project sustainability and positive impact.

NGOs can build upon the success of their core programs by sharing their skills with others in the community, whether that community is a village, town, state, country or the entire world.

But the sharing of skills is a skill in itself. It requires training to sharpen effective communications strategies, including active listening, outreach that will be accepted by the community, assessment and follow up.

Maximpact provides need-based and sector-specific tailored training to strengthen the capacity of NGOs, projects and programs worldwide. Organizations can carry out training in any area they need, such as fundraising, or select Agriculture, WASH and Waste Management Training-of-Trainers.

The Internal Benefits of Capacity Building for an NGO

Capacity building is required to demonstrate an NGO’s accountability for and sustainability of project results to donors and local communities. It also is essential in growing the internal abilities of an NGO to perform its mission in the most efficient and effective way.

In order to adapt to the fast-changing environment of development and humanitarian assistance, many NGOs require new skills of their staff members. Internal communication and coordination of complex programs can pose challenges to staffers. Strengthening their ability to collaborate with partners becomes even more important.

Through its Training-of-Trainers programs designed for NGOs, Maximpact offers solutions to these and other common challenges faced by the NGO community.

NGOs benefit through such programs. By becoming trainers, NGO leaders can extend their services, enhancing the reputation of their organization and generating new revenue streams.

While building their own skills as trainers, NGO leaders are empowered to motivate community members to become trainers themselves, expanding the knowledge of the whole community.

ToT in WASH, Waste Management and Agriculture / TRIPLE BENEFIT

Maximpact offers customized training programs designed to serve NGOs working in the field of AgricultureWASH and Waste .

These programs offer triple benefits. They train participants in: technical, operational and preparation skills.

The Maximpact Training-of-Trainers program will graduate a competent and enthusiastic staff of trainers equipped with the skills and resources to transform local areas through sustainable agricultural methods tailored to local conditions and cultures.

The Maximpact Training-of-Trainers program for WASH consists of 11 main modules covering water pollution, water scarcity and climate change; and the practical possibilities for sustainable financing.

The Waste Management Training-of-Trainers program will introduce recent technology and most advanced techniques in waste management.

All these programs are expected to raise the skills of the NGO sector to create and deliver their own WASH, Agriculture and Waste capacity building programs.

Based on the specific needs of an NGO, the Maximpact Training-of-Trainers programs offer the flexibility to select one or more of the presented modules and/or request training in any additional sector-related topics.

Maximpact will adapt the program to the local context where trainings take place, as well as to the nature and knowledge level of training participants.

All Maximpact programs are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, incorporating the climate change and gender aspects of these ambitious goals.

To ensure sustainability, Maximpact has created a Post-Training Mentorship Program to further support the training participants in applying their training to their day-to-day work.

Participants of Maximpact capacity building training programs enhance the socio-environmental impact and sustainability of their NGO projects. Their communities experience upward economic mobility as the graduates, in turn, teach local enterprises the skills they need to succeed.

Implementation modalities and service conditions

Maximpact trainers can provide either virtual or in-house training, or both.

The training service fee will depend on:

  • the number of topics or modules selected
  • the mode of training delivery – in-house or virtual
  • the number of days during which the training will take place
  • the choice of national or international expert to conduct the training

To get started, the NGO fills in the pre-training assessment form, click for link: Maximpact Training Form

Then, Maximpact finds the right expert and submits a service proposal to that expert for review and approval.

To receive a quote for your organizations training, please contact info@maximpact.com.


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An Atlas of Sci-Art Water Diplomacy

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Fountain of the Naiads at Piazza della Repubblica, Rome, Italy. This was originally the fountain of the Acqua Pia, connected to the aqua Marcia aqueduct, commissioned at this site by Pope Pius IX in 1870. (Photo by David McKelvey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 9, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – No longer is it true that water is a free and infinite resource as people once believed. Today conservation is essential as one in every 10 people across the European Union experiences water scarcity, according to the European Commission.

In an effort to manage water wisely so that everyone in the EU, and especially city dwellers, will have enough, the Commission has just published the first “Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

The atlas shows how different water management choices, and other factors such as food preferences, waste management and climate change affect the long-term sustainability of water use in cities.

Detailed factsheets in the Urban Water Atlas for Europe present the state of water management in more than 40 European cities and regions together with several overseas examples.

Tibor Navracsics, commissioner for education, culture, youth and sport, is responsible for the European Commission’s in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which produced the new atlas.

“To foster innovative water management and its public acceptance, scientific and technological knowledge must be accessible for all. The ‘Urban Water Atlas for Europe’ presents scientific and technical information in an intuitive and creative way, making it easy for everyone to understand what is at stake and act accordingly,” he said.

The atlas was presented on April 27 during the meeting of ministers in charge of water management from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean, hosted by the Maltese Government in Valetta.

The publication a result of the BlueSCities project, funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation program.

In its introduction, the Urban Water Atlas for Europe reveals the pioneering concept on which it is founded – Sci-Art Water Diplomacy.

This concept first appeared in a pilot scheme in Jordan which led to the exhibition “Science and Art in Water – Water through the eyes of Jordanian children,” organized under the auspices of the Jordanian Minister for Education by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the partners of the Horizon 2020 Project, BlueSCities.

Schoolchildren from different countries were encouraged to consider the water problems facing their region and to describe their personal feelings through drawings. The children’s thought-provoking, yet innocent images called on society to progress

towards a more ecological, more sustainable and more peaceful future, perhaps far more effectively than any scientific treatise.

The colorful results of this exercise laid the philosophical basis for the Urban Water Atlas for Europe.

“This is another great example of how the JRC helps to deliver solutions to the challenges facing Europe’s citizens and the spaces they live in,” Navracsics said.

On the scientific side, there are two online tools linked with the atlas that can help cities manage water more sustainably.

The City Blueprint is an interactive tool to support strategic decision-making by making it easy to access and understand the results of studies and expert knowledge.

The City Blueprint given for each city is a composite index that displays 25 indicators related to water, waste and climate change in one infographic, summarizing at a glance how well a city currently manages its water resources.

This tool gives an overview of a city’s strong and weak points, and provides tailor-made options for making urban water services more sustainable.

This information is important to help identify priorities for further action and investment, but also to visualize strengths and weaknesses. The Blue City Index is the overall score based on these 25 indicators.

The City Amberprint is a tool for assessing a city’s progress towards becoming smart and sustainable.

Karmenu Vella, commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “Water is an irreplaceable resource for society, but it is only renewable if well managed.”

He emphasized the critial role of cities, saying, “Home to three out of four EU citizens, cities have no other choice but to become water-wise, and better manage this precious resource. A strong water policy is also essential for delivering on Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development both in the EU and internationally.”

The atlas also presents the Urban Water Footprint of European cities, a measure of domestic water use as well as water use embodied in agricultural products consumed.

This measure aims to raise awareness of the large amount of water used to produce food and the variation in water needs among different diets. The atlas shows that healthier diets and lower meat diets could save as much as 40 percent of the water currently used to produce food.

The atlas also aims to encourage citizens to take an interest and get involved in water issues by combining the work of scientists, artists, politicians and municipal stakeholders with that of schoolchildren and teachers.

Some of the key messages in the atlas are, “Engage in true citizen engagement, employing a participatory and open approach,” and “create a legacy and a true connection between generations, from the youngest to the oldest citizens.”

The Urban Water Atlas stems from a collaboration of the Joint Research Centre with Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic, the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, the (EIP) European Innovation Partnership on Water, and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities, NETWERC H2O.

It follows a long tradition of other atlases produced by the Joint Research Centre, including those on soils and soil management across the globe and the European Atlas of Forest Tree Species.


Featured Image:  Woman at a fountain at Catedral de Santa Eulalia de Barcelona, Spain (Photo by Clark and Kim Kays) Creative Commons license via Flickr

CapacityBuilding

 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of water experts that can help your organization with water related projects. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Transforming Africa

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Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

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President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


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Our Drying Planet

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An aerial view of the Tigris River as it flows through Baghdad, Iraq, population 8.76 million, the second largest city in the Arab world, July 31, 2016. (U.S. Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 16, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world faces an acute water crisis within a decade that will affect food supplies, megacities and industry globally, warns Australian science writer Julian Cribb, author of the new book “Surviving the 21st Century.

The water crisis is sneaking up on humanity unawares. People turn on the tap and assume clean, safe water will always flow. But the reality is that supplies are already critical for 4.2 billion people – over half the world’s population,” says Cribb. “During times of drought, megacities like Sao Paulo, La Paz, Los Angeles, Santiago, 32 Indian cities and 400 Chinese cities are now at risk.

World water use is already more than 10 trillion tonnes a year. While the human population has tripled since 1950, our water use has grown six-fold,” says Cribb.

In his book, Cribb cites some disturbing facts:
  • Groundwater is running out in practically every country in the world where it is used to grow food, posing risks to food security in northern India, northern China, Central Asia, the central and western United States, and the Middle East. Most of this groundwater will take thousands of years to replenish.
  • The icepack on high mountain chains is shrinking, emptying the rivers it once fed in practically every continent.
  • Around the world, large lakes are drying up, especially in Central Asia, China, sub-Saharan Africa and the South American Andes.
  • Most of the world’s large rivers are polluted with chemicals, nutrients and sediment.
  • 50,000 dams break up the world’s major rivers, sparking increased disputes over water between neighboring countries.

Pope Francis has warned that humanity could be moving toward a “world war over water.”

Addressing an international seminar on the human right to water hosted in February by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said, “It is painful to see when in the legislation of a country or a group of countries, water is not considered a human right. It is even more painful when it is removed from legislation and this human right is denied. I ask myself if in the midst of this third World War happening in pieces, are we on the way to a larger world war over water?

Each of the last three UN secretaries-general – Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali – has warned of the dangers of world water scarcity and of future water wars.

To counter this danger, José Graziano da Silva, who heads the Rome-based UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, is focusing on the cradle of civilization, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the entire Gulf region, as one of the areas most exposed to the risks posed by climate change, particularly water scarcity.

In an opinion article written in January, Graziano da Silva cited research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the authority for his warning, “The Gulf region is poised to experience a significant uptick in the frequency of consecutive dry days…

If we fail to keep average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, the region often known as the cradle of human civilization will increasingly face extreme heat waves of the kind that disable the human body’s ability to cool itself,” the FAO leader wrote.

He says avoiding that fate is within our means, but requires that governments muster the will to “increase food output by around 50 percent by 2050,” and we have to do that, he says, “without depleting strained natural resources beyond the tipping point.

Of course, food production requires plenty of water.

In the Gulf region particularly, says Graziano da Silva, no government can accomplish this alone. The region imports about half of all its wheat, barley and maize, and 60 percent of the region’s fresh water flows across national boundaries.

Graziano da Silva draws his hope for the future from the Near East and North Africa’s Water Scarcity Initiative , a partnership for water reform in the Gulf region.

This network of partners, which includes over 30 regional and international organizations, is working to provide member countries with opportunities to learn and share practices in the sustainable use and management of water.

Water scarcity in the Near East and North Africa region is already severe.

Fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world. They have fallen by two-thirds during last 40 years and are expected to drop at least more 50 percent by 2050.

Ninety percent of the region’s land lies within arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, while 45 percent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, according to the FAO.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses roughly 85 percent of the available freshwater.

The Initiative is attempting to bring scientific tools to bear on these grim facts. Water accounting, food-supply cost curve, gap-analysis and regular monitoring of agricultural water productivity are some of the advanced tools that the Initiative will use to quantify the benefits and costs of alternative policy options to address food insecurity while sustaining water resources.

Data collection, management and analysis are the backbone of the Initiative that will support the strategic planning for water resources and provide evidence for policy formulation.

Making use of the expertise developed by FAO and its partners, the Initiative will advise governments and the private sector on the adoption of modern technologies and institutional solutions to increase the efficiency and productivity of water use in agriculture for the benefit of millions of farmers and rural communities in the region.

Options to save water all along the food value chain will be shared with the private sector, while governments will be encouraged to promote incentive frameworks that reposition farmers at the center of the sustainable management of land and water resources.

The Initiative will support the ongoing major policy processes in the region, including the Arab Water Security Strategy 2010-2030 and the Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region.

FAO’s work in the region ranges from emergency efforts in response to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen to running Farmer Field Schools in Egypt and helping the United Arab Emirates develop their first national agricultural policy.

The UAE is planning to roll out water meters on farms, while at the same time introducing smart subsidies targeting those who consume less water than average.

Benefits range from better diagnostic data on actual water use and incentives to actual conservation practices to allocating the savings to farmers who can invest in their businesses for even more efficiency.

That climate change poses such threats to an area known as the cradle of civilization underscores the need for urgent action to put agriculture at the center of the sustainability agenda,” says Graziano da Silva.

World Water Day, on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

This year’s theme: Why waste water? is in support of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

And now it’s not just a day, or just a week, like the prestigious annual World Water Week in Stockholm in September, but the United Nations has designated another decade to mobilize for water conservation and sustainable use.

The UN Water for Life Decade 2005-2015  a knowledge hub, a best practices program, encouraged communications regarding water and integrated into its work the accomplishments of the UN-Water technical advisory unit.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development” to help put a greater focus on water during 10 years.

Emphasizing that water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, UN Member States expressed deep concern over the lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as well as concern over water-related disasters, scarcity and pollution worsened by urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change.

The new Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives.

To set the agenda in motion, UN-Water, in its 26th meeting in Geneva in February, decided on the establishment of a Task Force to facilitate its support to the planning and organization of the International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

The Decade will commence on World Water Day March 22, 2018, and end on World Water Day, March 22, 2028. It could be the last decade that humanity can use to avert the predicted water crisis.


Featured Image: Mullah Neoka and his sons are wheat farmers in Afghanistan’s Herat province, once the bread basket of central Asia before land mines made farming impossible. HALO Trust, a UK-supported project to clear land mines has restored the land for agriculture. 2011. (Photo by Catherine Belfield-Haines / UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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 Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of water experts that can help your organization with water related environmental protection and water projects. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Disaster Risk Reduction: Wetlands Keep Us Safe

UkraineNewRamsarSite

One of Ukraine’s two new Ramsar sites, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire. (Photo by Oksana Golovko, 2011 courtesy Ramsar Convention) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

GLAND, Switzerland, February 2, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The frequency of natural disasters worldwide has more than doubled in just 35 years and their frequency is expected to increase due to climate change. Experts estimate that 90 percent of natural hazards are water related, so wetland conservation is essential for reducing risks.

By 2050, loss of wetlands, increasing populations, the changing climate and rising sea levels are forecast to increase the number of people vulnerable to floods to two billion.

Today, more than 1,000 events have been organized around the world to mark World Wetlands Day, the annual recognition of the eco-services wetlands provide. This year’s theme is apt in this time of increasing natural hazards, “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.”

These events are being held to raise global awareness of the importance of wetlands and the need for their conservation and sustainable use.

Healthy, well-managed wetlands function as a natural infrastructure defending human civilization from the catastrophic effects of natural hazards.

Coastal wetlands such as mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass and tidal marshes protect against flooding and storm surges.

Inland wetlands, such as floodplains, lakes and peatlands, act as natural sponges, storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding, then releasing stored water during dry seasons to delay the onset of droughts.

But wetlands are being destroyed or degraded faster than any other type of ecosystem, according to officials of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This treaty uniting 169 countries is named for the Iranian city on the coast of the Caspian Sea where the treaty was signed in 1971.

The latest figures show that 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century. Every year one percent of those remaining disappear as wetlands are drained or degraded to meet demands for water and land for agriculture, industry and growing urban populations.

Wetlands are vital because they provide food for more than three billion people worldwide and are a source of freshwater and livelihoods for over one billion.

Martha Rojas Urrego, secretary general of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is encouraging more action to preserve these bulwarks against natural disasters.

It is crucial that more voices speak up for wetlands, more people become informed of their value and more decisive actions are taken to conserve and restore this valuable ecosystem. We seek to mobilize global actions that will lead to the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of all wetlands,” Rojas said.

We encourage policy-makers, experts and community leaders to consider wetlands as an extremely cost-effective and win-win solution for disaster risk reduction,” she said. “Decision-makers should therefore make significant efforts to integrate wetlands in cross-sectoral disaster risk reduction policies and strategies.

Wetlands are crucial for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, water experts explain. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without a decisive action for wetland conservation.

Parties to the Ramsar Convention have designated over 2,250 Wetlands of International Importance, known as Ramsar sites, covering over 2.15 million square kilometres, which are protected for the benefits they provide.

Ten new Ramsar sites, known as Wetlands of International Importance, have been designated for World Wetlands Day 2017.

Madagascar has designated five large Ramsar sites. The country now has 15 sites, which support the protection of over 1.5 million hectares of habitats critical to the island’s unique biodiversity, achieved with the support of WWF Madagascar.

These sites host unique, rich ecosystems, and are of great economic, social and cultural importance in their regions of Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of southeast Africa.

In southeast Asia, Myanmar has designated Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary, a coastal wetland in the southern part of the Irrawaddy Delta, which is also an ASEAN Heritage Park. There are around 30 imperiled Irrawaddy dolphins in the rivers and creeks around the sanctuary. It supports one of the largest remaining mangrove areas in the delta, where mangroves have declined due to logging, fishing and development of shipping lanes.

France has designated Marais Breton, Baie de Bourgneuf, Ile de Noirmoutier et Forêt de Monts as a new Ramsar site. This 56,000 hectare site of coastal marshes and tidal bays on the French Atlantic coast is France’s 45th Ramsar site.

Italy has designated Trappola Marshland – Ombrone River Mouth as its 53rd Ramsar site. Located on the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany, this is one of the last remnants of a partly salty and partly freshwater complex of wetlands and sandy dunes.

Ukraine has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire and Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury.

Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire is located in southwestern Ukraine between the Stokhid, Prypiat and Styr rivers. It includes a bog, one of the biggest karst lakes in the region, swamp forests, pine woods and a small channelled river. More than 900 native plant species and 500 animal species have been seen there.

This wetland complex plays an important role in the maintenance of hydrological regimes of the region, in addition to carbon storage and climate regulation.

Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury is an archipelago of sandbank islands and shallows in the upper reaches of the Kakhovka Reservoir in the floodplain of the Lower Dnieper River in south-eastern Ukraine where fish breed and grow. The wetland is of great importance as a natural filter of fresh water in the reservoir.

The Sundarbans National Park in India, and the neighboring Sundarbans in Bangladesh together account for the world’s largest area of protected mangroves.


Featured Image: Delta de Casamance in Senegal, where coastal mangroves act as natural safeguards against disasters. (Photo courtesy  Ramsar Convention) Posted for media use

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of environmental experts that can help your organization with water related environmental protection and disaster risk reduction. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

Bionic Leaf Makes Liquid Fuel From Sunlight

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Harvard professor Daniel Nocera (Photo by Kris Krüg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, September 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Scientists at Harvard have developed a technology that mimics the way leaves produce energy from sunlight, water and air.

A device about the size of a credit card, the “bionic leaf” includes a solar panel. When placed in water, it uses energy from sunlight to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen, just like a real plant does during photosynthesis.

The device uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels. It’s a kind of living battery, which the scientists call a bionic leaf for its melding of biology and technology.

The system can convert solar energy to biomass with 10 percent efficiency, far above the one percent seen in the fastest-growing plants.

Chemist Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School, have co-created the new system.

This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” Nocera said. “Before, people were using artificial photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.

While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential does not end there, said Silver.

The beauty of biology is it’s the world’s greatest chemist – biology can do chemistry we can’t do easily,” she said. “In principle, we have a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule. So this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”

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Pamela Silver, a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School (Photo by Rose Lincoln, Harvard)

Nicknamed the “Bionic Leaf 2.0,” the new system builds on earlier work by Nocera, Silver, and others. Though capable of using solar energy to make isopropanol, that work was imperfect.

First, Nocera said, the catalyst used to produce hydrogen – a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy – also created reactive oxygen species, molecules that attacked and destroyed the bacteria’s DNA.

To avoid that, researchers were forced to run the system at abnormally high voltages, reducing its efficiency.

 “For this paper, we designed a new cobalt-phosphorous alloy catalyst, which we showed does not make reactive oxygen species,” Nocera said. “That allowed us to lower the voltage, and that led to a dramatic increase in efficiency.

I don’t know why yet,” said Nocera. “That will be fun to figure out.

With this new catalyst in the bionic leaf, the team boosted version 2.0’s efficiency at producing alcohol fuels like isopropanol and isobutanol to roughly 10 percent.

For every kilowatt-hour of electricity used the microbes could scrub 130 grams of carbon dioxide out of 230,000 liters of air to make 60 grams of isopropanol fuel. That is better than the efficiency of natural photosynthesis at converting water, sunlight and air into stored energy.

This is the genius of Dan,” Silver said. “These catalysts are totally biologically compatible.”

 Researchers also used the system to create PHB, a bio-plastic precursor, a process first demonstrated by Professor Anthony Sinskey of MIT.

There may yet be room for additional increases in efficiency, but Nocera said the system is already effective enough to consider potential commercial uses for the new technology.

It’s an important discovery – it says we can do better than photosynthesis,” Nocera said. “But I also want to bring this technology to the developing world as well.”

Working in conjunction with the First 100 Watts program at Harvard, which helped fund the research, Nocera hopes to continue developing the technology and its applications in nations like India, with the help of their scientists.

In many ways, Nocera said, the new system marks the fulfillment of the promise of his earlier “artificial leaf,” which used solar power to split water and make hydrogen fuel.

If you think about it, photosynthesis is amazing,” he said. “It takes sunlight, water, and air – and then look at a tree. That’s exactly what we did, but we do it significantly better, because we turn all that energy into a fuel.

This research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The Harvard University Climate Change Solutions Fund  is supporting ongoing research into the bionic leaf platform.


Featured Image: The tiny bionic leaf can turn sunlight, water and air into liquid fuel. (Screengrab from video by Harvard University)

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Investing in Water for Life

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Water is returned to Australia’s Murray River through a Nature Conservancy Water Sharing Investment Partnership, 2016. (Photo by Brian Richter) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

 STOCKHOLM, Sweden, September 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Water scarcity is a top risk to global prosperity and ecological integrity. But creative impact investment solutions, such as Water Sharing Investment Partnerships, can shift water back to the environment, while supporting irrigated agriculture and meeting urban needs, finds new research presented during World Water Week in Stockholm.

The new study  from nonprofit The Nature Conservancy, “Water Share: Using water markets and impact investing to drive sustainability,” shows that through new approaches to water markets, the planet-wide problem of water scarcity can be managed.

The WSIP concept was created by The Nature Conservancy’s water program and impact investment unit, NatureVest, to advance the strategic trading of water-use rights within river and lake basins.

The establishment of high-functioning and well-governed water markets – in which a cap on total use is set; rights to use water are legally defined, monitored, and enforced; and in which rights can be exchanged among water users – can provide a powerful integration of public and private efforts to alleviate water scarcity,” the report states.

This model takes advantage of the motivations and incentives for trading water,” says Brian Richter, the lead scientist for the water program at The Nature Conservancy, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia with offices in 30 countries.

As water assumes a value, it provides a huge incentive for water conservation and water savings,” he said.

The Nature Conservancy launched its first Water Sharing Investment Partnership in Australia in 2015 in the Murray-Darling river basin, which drains one-seventh of the continent. As of May 2016, about A$27 million had been invested in the Murray-Darling Basin Balanced Water Fund , with a target of A$100 million within the next four years.

NatureVest plans to replicate the success of this fund in other areas of the world and is now in the process of scoping various river basins across the western United States and Latin America, where a similar model of water reallocation through investor-funded solutions can be applied.

 The Nature Conservancy is now building off its track record of using philanthropic dollars to purchase water on behalf of the environment in North America, to craft Water Sharing Investment Partnerships (WSIPs) and other water transactions and investment mechanisms to help rebalance water use in stressed basins.

 A WSIP operates within an existing water market, using investor capital and other revenue sources to acquire water-use rights.

These rights can be reallocated to nature, or sold or leased to other water users seeking more supplies, generating financial returns for investors.

The report identifies investor funded solutions, some of which may serve as the basis for a future WSIP such as long-term water trades within farming communities by establishing a complex of water sharing agreements: “…farmers’ water markets, long-term trades between farmers and cities, short-term trades within farming communities and short-term exchanges between farmers and cities.

As water assumes a value, it provides a huge incentive for water conservation and water savings,” Richter says.

Freshwater ecosystems are the most imperiled on the planet, and their condition is getting worse. More than 30 percent of Earth’s water sources are being over-exploited, some to near exhaustion.

A sense of urgency pervades the conference hall as 3,000 people from 120 countries are gathered in Stockholm this week for the 26th annual World Water Week under the theme “Water for Sustainable Growth.”

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the organizer, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), said, “Without reliable access to water, almost no Sustainable Development Goal will be achieved. To make that happen, we must ensure water’s centrality to the entire Agenda 2030. This will show the power water has a connector.

Water connects not only sectors, but also nations, communities and different actors. Water can be the unifying power, the enabler for progress in both Agenda 2030 and the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Holmgren.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngård told delegates that cities struggle with some of the biggest problems, but also have access to powerful solutions.

We have the job growth, the universities, the creative ideas,” she said. “We also face the biggest emissions, the social problems, and housing shortage. Our participation in the struggle for sustainable solutions is key for global success. And that means a growing responsibility, a moral responsibility towards future generations and their ability to live in cities where it is possible to work, live in security, breathe the air and drink the water.

Addressing the opening session, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström reinforced the message that water is a connector and an enabler in realizing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 6 – clean, accessible water for all.

Successful realization of Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda will underpin progress across many of the other goals, particularly on nutrition, child health, education, gender equality, healthy cities and healthy water ecosystems and oceans,” said Wallström.

 Angel Gurría, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said that water now has come to the front and center of international deliberations. “Water now has the place it needs to have in international priorities,” said Gurría.

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Professor Joan Rose is awarded the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, during a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall, August 31, 2016 (Photo courtesy Stockholm International Water Institute)

Professor Joan Rose from Michigan State University received the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize on Wednesday, for her tireless contributions to global public health; by assessing risks to human health in water and creating guidelines and tools for decision-makers and communities to improve global wellbeing.

The prize, worth $150,000, was presented to Professor Rose by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, during a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall during World Water Week.

Professor Rose said, “As an individual it is an honor and I am overflowing with gratitude. But it means even more, because it is a prize that honors water, it honors the blue planet and it honors the human condition. Therefore, I am very proud.

Rose and her team, whom she calls “water detectives” investigate waterborne disease outbreaks globally, to determine how they can be stopped and prevented.

She is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on the microorganism Cryptosporidium, an intestinal parasite that in 1993 killed 69 people and sickened more than 400,000 others who drank contaminated water in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

More than two billion people still lack adequate sanitation, and over one billion lack access to safe drinking water. Hundreds of thousands of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases each year could be prevented by improved water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Holmgren.

Joan Rose, our water hero, is a beacon of light in the quest for securing a better, healthier life for this and future generations,” he said.

Speaking of what she views as the world’s greatest water challenge, Professor Rose said, “I think it is going to be the reversal of water quality problems around the world; the algal blooms in fresh water and coastal waters, and the pollution, not just associated with humans, but also with disease outbreaks among our wildlife, like amphibians and fish. I also think reconnecting water and food security will be a major challenge. We are starting to do it but it will definitely continue to be a challenge.”

Water Facts from the United Nations:

  • Some 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without.
  • At least 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.
  • Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge.
  • Of the world’s 7.5 billion people, 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.
  • More than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal.
  • Every day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases.
  • Hydropower is the world’s most important and widely-used renewable source of energy and as of 2011, represented 16 percent of total electricity production worldwide.
  • Roughly 70 percent of all water drawn from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation.
  • Floods and other water-related disasters account for 70 percent of all deaths related to natural disasters.

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Featured Image: The Jordan River runs along the border between the Kingdom of Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The 251-kilometre (156 mile)-long river flows through the Sea of Galilee and on to the Dead Sea. (Photo by Tracy Hunter) Creative commons license via Flickr

Funding Key to Africa’s Clean Water Solutions

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Woman collects drinking water from a stream in Uganda, June 2015 (Photo by CAFOD) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

DAR es SALAAM, Tanzania, August 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Determination to find lasting solutions to Africa’a age-old water and sanitation problems characterized the mood of delegates to the 6th Africa Water Week conference in Dar es Salam last week.

Organized by African Ministers’ Council on Water in collaboration with the African Union Commission and other development partners, the meeting saw political commitments at the highest level to collectively seek solutions to Africa’s many water and sanitation challenges.

From July 18 through 22 government officials, scientists and civil society actors mapped pathways to success for Africa’s effort to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Clean water is essential for life, human dignity, and the health of people and of the planet, the United Nations has declared many times, calling the human right to water and sanitation “foundational to the realization and enjoyment of all other human rights.”

In September 2015, all UN Member States committed themselves to ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, known as Sustainable Development Goal 6.

At the 6th Africa Water Week, 30 African water ministers and high-level delegations from 53 African nations adopted a plan aimed at achieving Goal 6 – sustainable and universal access to safe water and sanitation throughout Africa.

Adoption of the plan, “The Dar es Salaam Roadmap for achieving the N’gor Commitments on Water Security and Sanitation in Africa,” was the high point of the conference.

In her remarks, Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu focused on finding the funds to accomplish this gigantic task.

She urged delegates to “tackle present and future challenges by diversifying our sources of water and be innovative in financing mechanisms taking into account the huge funding requirements for the sector, and the urgency of mobilizing funds to put the right infrastructure and skilled manpower to develop and manage the sector more efficiently.”

Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, called on Member States to step up efforts to realize the African Agenda 2063 on the “Africa we want” because water is key to reducing poverty in Africa.

There is need for us to put in place sound policies, legal and regulatory frameworks to support investments from various sources in water, sanitation and hygiene and also promote gender equality and women empowerment,” Tumusiime said.

Nigeria’s Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu told reporters at the conference, “We are working to ensure that all Nigerians have access to potable water by 2030 through urban water sector reform programme.

The continent’s most populous country, Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. The government is tasked with providing clean water for its 184 million people.

Adamu said Nigeria was not able to meet its target under the Millennium Development Goals, the precursor to the Sustainable Development Goals, due to sole reliance on the government’s budget.

 Adamu emphasized the need for a change in the public’s attitude toward public utilities, saying “Nigeria must begin to see the importance of paying for water consumed.”

He said the ministry has created a data bank and census covering water supply and sanitation for all water infrastructures in the country to prepare for a renewed effort to reach all Nigerians with clean water.

 Nigeria will soon begin the National Programme on Partnerships for Extending Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, aimed at meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of universal access to water.

 But there are disagreements among African countries over water. The longstanding dispute between Tanzania and Malawi about Lake Nyasa, in which an agreement for a project on the shared water resource has lasted over 40 years without a deal, for example, and the grand mega power project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has stalled for over 40 years.

Still, there are examples of benefits through cooperation. Speaking to members of the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PACJA),  John Rao Nyoro, executive director for the Nile Basin Initiative, said that the Nile Basin Sustainability Framework is now benefiting all the 10 riparian states along the Nile.

While it is not a legal framework, the NBSF, which is a suite of policies, strategies, and guidance documents, functions as a guide to national policy and planning process development and seeks to build consensus among countries that share the resource,” Nyaoro told the journalists.

The Dar es Salaam Roadmap recognizes the role of innovative financing and budgetary prioritization for the water sector, sanitation and monitoring.

 Water ministers at the 6th Africa Water Week agreed that by increasing transparency and accountability in the sector, governments across the continent can account for financial contributions.

They decided to focus on complementing existing initiatives while avoiding overlap and redundancy, and they pledged to ensure a participatory environment for civil society and citizens in policy formulation, sector planning and monitoring.

Other aspects of the ministers’ plan of action for the continent’s water resources include provision of drinking water, improved sanitation, hygiene, effective and efficient management of wastewater, transboundary water resources, and strengthening Africa’s capacity to respond to climate change.

 But the challenges are enormous. As the conference was underway, for instance, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) launched a relief program to feed families affected by the severe drought in Malawi.

The El Nino-related drought, the worst drought in more than 30 years, has led to food shortages in much of southern Africa, and more than 18 million people across the region are in need of food aid.

On Tuesday, the 15-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared a regional disaster and launched an appeal for US$2.4 billion to support the humanitarian needs and disaster response recovery of the millions affected by the drought caused by the Eastern Pacific ocean warming event known as El-Niño.

Botswana’s President Lt. General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who serves as the SADC chair, said, “The 2016 regional food security and vulnerability assessments indicate that the number of food insecure people in the region is about 40 million, which is about 14 percent of SADC’s total population.

Responding to the appeal, the United States pledged US$300 million, while the United Kingdom pledged £72 million and the European Union pledged €60 million towards humanitarian assistance.

There is a strong effort this year to integrate water issues with climate issues and find mutual solutions for Africa.

Earlier this month, ahead of COP 22, the UN’s annual climate summit, taking place this year in Marrakesh, Morocco, 650 decision makers, researchers, technical experts, financiers and civil society members from 40 countries attended the Water Security for Climate Justice conference in Rabat.

There ministers from 22 African countries issued a statement on the importance of implementing and funding water initiatives in Africa. To be presented in Marrakesh, the “Water for Africa,” declaration noted the opportunities presented by the momentum toward integrating water and sanitation with the climate negotiations.

Underlining the urgency and necessity of acting on resilience and adaptation in the water and sanitation sectors, the ministers called for integrating water and climate, prioritizing water in adaptation discussions, adopting priority action plans for water and the SDGs in Africa, enhancing access to finance for water projects from climate funds, and encouraging civil society involvement.


A woman in Benin drinks clean water following implementation of the Community Driven Development project, September 2010 (Photo by Arne Hoel / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Hope for the Hungry

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By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, July 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world go to bed hungry while at the same time, a third of the world’s food is wasted, say the number-crunchers at the United Nations food agencies.

But there is fresh hope for the hungry. Leaders of two UN agencies fighting hunger worldwide are applauding new legislation in the United States that aims to strengthen global food assistance programs in the years ahead.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his July 20th signing of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA). The United States is the largest donor to both UN agencies.

The measure was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 6 by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, during a time of otherwise great division in the U.S. Congress and politics.

The United States is helping to put and even stronger emphasis on how food security and economic development are intertwined, while stressing the central role of small-scale family farmers in the fight against hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

This law will have a dramatic impact on the lives of people throughout world, showing once again why the United States is a leader in promoting food security and helping those who struggle to feed their families so they can start to build their own future,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

The new law supports initiatives to develop agriculture, assist small-scale food producers and improve nutrition, especially for women and children worldwide. It seeks improve the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to poor communities and build their resilience to withstand shocks, such as conflict, droughts and floods.

President Obama signed into law the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger initiative, ensuring it will continue helping countries provide their people with enough food – even after the Obama presidency ends in January.

The new law authorizes for the first time USAID‘s International Disaster Assistance and Emergency Food Security Program. This means future White House administrations and future Congresses could more easily make cash assistance available to people experiencing hunger unexpectedly, due to natural disasters or war.

And it has never been more needed. One-third of all the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted as it moves from farm, ranch or orchard to table, at a global cost as high as US$940 billion a year, calculates the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, more than 800 million people around the world are undernourished, the FAO reminded everyone in June.

Food loss and food waste generates about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the UN agency says, adding that if it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter – behind China and the United States.

In an attempt to lose less food and feed more people, a partnership of international organizations has launched a new global framework to giv businesses, governments, and other organizations ways to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the partnership, and they have developed the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard for quantifying and reporting on food removed from the food supply chain due to waste or loss.

The new Standard was launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit June 6 in Copenhagen.

3GF enables public-private partnerships to support the large-scale adoption of green technologies, practices and policies that they hope will accelerate solutions to intractable problems that markets and governments have been unable to solve on their own.

This set of global definitions and reporting requirements comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other organizions are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.

Waste makes everybody poorer,” Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Jensen said. “I am pleased that a new strong alliance between public and private actors will provide an efficient answer to the global challenge of food loss and waste. 3GF has promoted yet another green and innovative solution to global challenges.

The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and food industry, alleviate pressure on natural resources and contribute to realizing the ambitious goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Jensen. “We need to push for more solutions like this for the benefit of people, profit and the planet.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the multi-stakeholder partnership convened by the nonprofit World Resources Institute and begun at the Global Green Growth Forum in 2013.

This standard is a real breakthrough,” declared Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute. “There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.

FLW Protocol partners include some of the largest and most influential of organizations: The Consumer Goods Forum, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union-funded FUSIONS project, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), The Waste and Resources Action Programme and World Resources Institute.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner acknowledged, “The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend. Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.

UNEP is urging all countries and companies to use the new Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard to start measuring and reporting food loss and waste, in parallel to taking action to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal SDG Target 12.3: Halve food waste by 2030.

Wasting a third of the food we produce is a clear symptom of a global food system in trouble,” said President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Peter Bakker. “The FLW Standard is pivotal to setting a reliable baseline for streamlined and efficient action on the ground for countries, cities, and small and big businesses along the food value chain.

Together with tangible business solutions,” said Bakker, “the FLW Standard can help to significantly reduce food loss and waste around the globe.”

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector.

In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard.

Some leading companies, like Nestle and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.

An executive summary of the Food Loss and Waste Protocol can be found at Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard


Main Image: In the Philippines, girls eat food offered by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization. (Photo by Feed My Starving Children) Creative commons license via Flickr

Achieving Urban Water Security

35720954 - manhattan downtown skyline with urban skyscrapers over river with reflections.

By 2050 it is projected that 60% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. Coupled with rapid population growth the world will have 41 mega-cities by 2030, each with more than 10 million inhabitants. At the same time global demand for water is projected to outstrip supply by 40% in 2030 and 55% in 2050.

As such numerous cities around the world are at risk of water insecurity – the inability of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate supplies of good quality water – as a result of climate change and the various impacts of urbanization.

The costs of increasing water supply

Traditionally, cities facing increased demand for water, along with variable supply, have relied on large-scale, supply-side infrastructural projects such as dams and reservoirs to meet increased demand for water. This is termed ‘supply-side’ management. However, supply-side management is costly in economic, environmental and political terms. Economically, water has to be transported over long distances increasing the costs of transportation. Additionally, the water is often of inferior quality and so requires additional treatment for potable consumption, increasing energy as well as chemical costs in water treatment plants. Environmentally, large-scale diversion of water disrupts the health of waterways that support aquatic ecosystems. Politically, because the vast majority of water is transboundary, ‘importing’ water creates political tensions with other water users, irrespective of whether they are located in the same country or not.

Balancing rising demand with limited supply

To reduce demand for scarce water, cities are turning to the use of demand management strategies to make better use of existing supplies before plans are made to further increase supply, where demand management is the promoting of water conservation during times of both normal conditions and uncertainty, through changes in the practices, cultures and people’s attitudes towards water resources. In addition to the numerous environmental benefits of preserving the health of ecosystems and their habitats, demand management is cost effective as it allows cities to better allocate scarce financial resources, which would otherwise be required to build expensive dams and water transfer infrastructure.

Achieving urban water security through demand management

Urban water security – the ability of an urban population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate supplies of good quality water – can be increased through demand management that aims to: reduce loss and misuse; optimize water use by ensuring reasonable allocation between various users while taking into account downstream users, both human and natural; facilitate major financial and infrastructural savings for cities; and reduce stress on water resources by reducing unsustainable consumption levels.

Types of demand management instruments

There are two types of demand management instruments available to cities to achieve urban water security: economic and regulatory instruments and communication and information instruments. Economic and regulatory instruments include: the pricing of water to lower consumption levels; subsidies and rebates for the uptake of water-efficient technologies; retrofitting of new or existing developments with water meters and water efficient devices; and product labeling of household appliances’ water efficiency. Communication and information instruments include public education on the need to conserve water including public events and social media campaigns that raise awareness on the need to use water wisely as well as school curriculum that raises awareness of the hydrological cycle at a young age.

Conclusion

With rapid urbanization and climate change impacting urban water security around the world, cities can use a variety of demand management instruments to change people’s attitudes and behavior towards scarce water resources. By balancing rising demand with limited supplies, cities not only reduce their water footprint but also make significant financial savings that can be put towards more productive uses.


Robert_Brears_Profile_Pic_optRobert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley). He is the founder of Mitidaption, Mark and Focus, is Director on the International Board of the Indo Global Chamber of Commerce (IGCCIA), Industries and Agriculture, and a Visiting Fellow (non-resident) at the Center for Conflict Studies at MIIS, Monterey, USA.

Rio Summer Olympics ‘Embrace’ Sustainability

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The Estádio do Maracanã is a 78,838 seat open-air stadium in the city of Rio owned by the Rio de Janeiro state government. South America’s largest stadium, it will be the venue for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies on August 5 and closing ceremonies on August 21. (Photo by Luciano Silva) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, July 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new set of sustainability measures to support the greening of the Rio Summer Olympic Games were agreed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee as far back as 2013.

Expressing its commitment to achieving sustainability, the “Embrace” Rio 2016 plan is based on three pillars: Planet, People and Prosperity, and has been established with the input of the federal, state and municipal governments.

The slogan “Embrace” Rio 2016 is being used in all Games communications related to the Sustainability Plan. The idea behind the name is to engage people, inviting them to be part of the transformation promoted by the event, which opens on Friday, August 5 and ends on Sunday, August 21.

A technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was signed at the launch of the sustainability program in August 2013. It expected to provide an evaluation plan and mediation around the subject of sustainability between Rio 2016 and the people of Brazil.

Denise Hamú, UNEP’s representative in Brazil, said, “Our goal is to integrate sustainability in all organizational processes, reducing the impact of the Games and setting an example of good practice for society as a whole. Together, sports and environment are powerful tools for sustainable development. For this reason, the UNEP has worked in partnership with the Olympic Movement over the last two decades.

Sustainability round tables originated during dialogue between the Organizing Committee and civil society groups in 2013. They began in 2014 and examined six topics in depth: urban mobility, climate change, sustainability education, protection of children and teenagers, diversity and inclusion, and transparency.

The Games will inevitably generate environmental impacts,” says the Organizing Committee. “We are talking about high consumption of water, energy, raw materials, food and so on. Rio 2016 undertakes to use all resources conscientiously and rationally, prioritizing certified, reusable and recyclable materials.”

 Discussions led to awareness, and the Organizing Committee has acted responsibly in many ways during planning and preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

  • 100 percent certified wood: Rio 2016 undertook to buy all the timber items required for the Games from sources with chain of custody certification. That means that the timber is logged sustainably and traceability is guaranteed from the time the timber leaves the forest through to the end user.
  • Sustainable headquarters: Rio 2016 has its headquarters in a temporary building. After the Olympics are over, it will be taken down, and 80 percent of the material will be reused in future structures. While in use, the building consumes 70 percent less energy than ordinary buildings. Timers on bathroom wash basins, intelligent flushes and a rainwater collection system enables the Organizing Committee to cut water consumption.
  • Material life-cycle analysis: The Organizing Committee has analyzed the life-cycles of 106 materials being used by the Games visual identity team to ensure conscientious and sustainable choices and minimize their environmental impact.

With the intention of delivering low-impact Games, the Organizing Committee has completed a study of the carbon footprint of the Rio Games and defined an emissions management strategy, based on impact measurement, cutting emissions, mitigation where possible and offsetting what cannot be mitigated.

To avert some of the consequences of energy use at the Games, Rio 2016 and Worldwide TOP Partner Dow announced the most comprehensive carbon dioxide (CO2) offset program in Olympic Games history. As the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, Dow will mitigate 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents through third party-verified emissions reductions somewhere else.

  • Technology-based carbon mitigation plan: This plan aims to mitigate 100 percent of the emissions generated by the Rio 2016 Games, which will amount to 500,000 tonnes of co2eq direct emissions from operation of the Games and 1.5 million tonnes of co2eq from spectators. Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits.
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One of Rio’s new state-of-the-art trams makes its way through the new-look waterfront district (Photo by Bruno Bartholini / Porto Maravilha) Posted for media use

Known as the VLT, Rio’s new light rail system started running in June. The high-tech trams have transformed public transport in the city center and given a futuristic look to the business district. The trams connect Santos Dumont domestic airport to the long-distance bus station, running through the waterfront district and stopping along the way at new museums and the busy cruise ship terminal. More than 200,000 people have already used the service.

Fleets of buses and trucks will be fueled by diesel containing 20 percent recycled cooking oil. Biodiesel emits less carbon and sulphur than petroleum diesel. It is estimated that 20,000 oil collectors will be involved, boosting the development of this production chain.

  • Logistics efficiency program: Logistics are a major factor in boosting the Games’ CO2 emissions. Rio 2016 is designing an intelligent route model to cut transportation time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the more than 30 million items to be brought in for the Games.

Allowing for public involvement has been an key part of the Organizing Committee’s work. Initial dialogue with civil society took place in 2013 and brought together 34 representatives of 24 organizations to assess the content of the Sustainability Management Plan. These meetings were held annually until this year. Organizers hope they will encourage a strong and effective post-Games transformation network.

  • Rio Alimentação Sustentável: Since 2013, Rio 2016 has been working in partnership with this voluntary organization focusing on healthy, sustainable foods. It is proposed that the Games act as a driving force to improve this sector in Brazil.

Rio 2016 has entered into partnerships with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council so that suppliers can obtain sustainability certification for fish and seafood to be eaten during the Games.

For Rio 2016, one of the key points is waste management, since large volumes of waste will be generated daily during the Games. The great challenge is to minimize waste and raise awareness among spectators, athletes, volunteers about the best way to dispose of and recycle waste.

  • Rio 2016 headquarters waste management: The Organizing Committee has been operating without buying plastic cups, reducing the number of printers available and not providing individual waste bins.
  • Guide to sustainability for packaging: One of the critical points in the generation of waste is packaging. With this in mind, in April 2013, Rio 2016 published a guide to sustainable packaging, in which the committee laid down sustainability options and mandatory requirements for this category of items, including labeling, eco-design, accessibility of information and packaging materials.
  • Games waste management strategies: The strategy began during the preparatory phase and will end when the venues are dismantled. Recycling cooperatives will be involved, and the strategy is based on this sequence: waste generation avoidance → minimizing volume → managing inevitable waste → promoting behavioral change. The strategy also includes treatment of organic waste through composting, in order to reduce the amount that is sent to landfills.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study: In 2014, the Organizing Committee published its first OGI study, carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Federal University School of Engineering and containing an analysis of 22 environmental, 76 socio-cultural and 25 economic indicators. The first edition relates to the period 2007-2013. A further three reports are to be published, covering impacts up to 2019.

After successfully hosting 44 test events, the Rio 2016 team and the venues are ready for action, with all the facilities receiving their final Olympic touches before the athletes start to arrive. The velodrome and equestrian venues, which were being monitored closely by the organizers, are in the final stage of preparation, and will be ready for the Games.

Golf as an Olympic sport was added just this year, and Rio created a golf course in the previously degraded area of Marapendi, west of Rio to host the new sport. Before the start of work, about 80 percent of the golf course land was degraded by sand extraction, and by the manufacturing and storage of pre-cast concrete.

Over at the Olympic Golf Course, Rio 2016 Sustainability Coordinator Carina Flores says the fresh vegetation has led to “a positive spiral for the development of wildlife.”

 Records indicate the presence of 263 animal species in the region today, as compared with 118 mapped before construction.

 An inspection of the golf course was conducted in December 2015, after a public civil action was filed by state prosecutors who questioned the environmental impact of the golf course construction work. Prosecutors, legal advisors and technicians environmentalists were among the inspectors.

 The forensic report from Brazil’s Court of Justice concluded, “The environmental gain in the region with the construction of the golf course is visible. In addition to the flora, which increased extensively, we can observe the different animal species that have returned to the area.

Rio 2016 is ready to welcome the world,” said International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission Chair Nawal el Moutawakel.

The Olympians of 2016 can look forward to living in an outstanding Olympic Village and competing in absolutely stunning venues,” she said. “From views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the new state-of-the-art facilities in Barra or Deodoro and the iconic Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana Beach, I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world’s top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world.


In Search of a Water-Wise World

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The drought in Somalia has lasted for years. This image of two men carrying a water can on a dusty road was shot on December 14, 2013. (Photo by the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ENSCHEDE, Netherlands, July 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Rukiyo Ahmed, 26, discovered she was pregnant just as drought began to parch her village in the East African country of Somalia. Her household lost all its livestock. When the drought intensified, Ahmed and her family had to seek relief with extended family members living in the town of Dangoroyo, 35 kilometres away.

“I was so worried that I would have a miscarriage due to the effects of the drought,” said Rukiyo. “We had so little to eat. I became very weak and could barely walk.”

This story has a happy ending. With the help of the UN Population Fund , Ahmed eventually gave birth to a healthy boy.

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China fights the advancing desert by planting trees in Inner Mongolia, May 2010. (Photo by Cory M. Grenier) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Still, water scarcity is a real and present danger for the two-thirds of the global population – four billion people – who live without enough water for at least one month of each year. Half a billion face severe water scarcity all year round, many in China, India and Africa.

Professor of water management Arjen Hoekstra and his team at University of Twente in The Netherlands have come to this conclusion after years of extensive research in a study published in the journal “Science Advances“.

“Groundwater levels are falling, lakes are drying up, less water is flowing in rivers, and water supplies for industry and farmers are threatened,” Hoekstra warns.

Until now, scientists had thought that about two to three billion people were suffering severe water scarcity. Four billion thirsty people is “alarming,” he said.

Professor Hoekstra’s team is the world’s first research group to establish the maximum sustainable “water footprint” for every location on Earth, and then investigate actual water consumption by location.

“Up to now, this type of research concentrated solely on the scarcity of water on an annual basis, and had only been carried out in the largest river basins,” says Hoekstra.

Severe water scarcity exists if consumption is much greater than the water supply can sustain. That is the case particularly in Mexico, the western United States, northern and southern Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, India, China, and Australia.

There, households, industries and farmers regularly experience water shortages. In other areas, water supplies are still fine but at risk in the long-term, the Dutch team reports.

In the United States, 130 million of the country’s 323 million people are affected by water scarcity for at least one month of each year, most in the states of California, Florida and Texas.

Hoekstra observes that the subject of water scarcity is climbing higher and higher on the global agenda. “The fact that the scarcity of water is being regarded as a global problem is confirmed by our research,” he said. “For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”

“All over the world,” Hoekstra said, “it is clear that the risks associated with high water consumption are being increasingly recognized. The growing world population, changes in consumer behavior, and climate change are having a significant impact on the scarcity and quality of water.”

Hoekstra’s work is confirmed by many other authoritative research teams.

About one-third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, according to two new studies from the University of California, Irvine, the first to identify global groundwater loses using data from space. The data is drawn from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites flown by the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA).

This means that millions of people are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, conclude the researchers, whose findings were published June 16 in “Water Resources Research.”

In the first paper, researchers found that 13 of the planet’s 37 largest aquifers studied between 2003 and 2013 were being depleted while receiving little to no recharge. In a companion paper, they conclude that the total remaining volume of the world’s usable groundwater is poorly known, with estimates that often vary widely.

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California fruit growers, farmers and ranchers are suffering through an epic drought, Coalinga, California, April 23, 2015 (Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links) Creative Commons license via Flickr

“Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient,” said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left.”

“The water table is dropping all over the world,” said Famiglietti. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”

A NASA study released in March finds that the drought that began in 1998 in the eastern Mediterranean Levant region of: Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, is likely the worst drought of the past 900 years.

In a joint statement, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said late last year, “El Niño will have a devastating effect on southern Africa’s harvests and food security in 2016. The current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 years.”

El Niño conditions, which arise from a natural warming of Pacific Ocean waters, lead to droughts, floods and more frequent cyclones across the world every few years.

Meteorologists say this year’s El Niño is the worst in 35 years and is now peaking. Although it is expected to decline in strength over the next six months, El Niño’s effects on farming, health and livelihoods in developing countries could last through 2018.

In Central America, El Niño conditions have led to a second consecutive year of drought – one of the region’s most severe in history,

In Africa, Abdoulaye Balde, the World Food Programme’s country director in Mozambique issued a dire warning. “Mozambique and southern African countries face a disaster if the rains do not come within a few weeks,” he said.

“South Africa is six million tonnes short of food this year, but it is the usual provider of food reserves in the region,” said Balde. “If they have to import six million tonnes for themselves, there will be little left for other countries. The price of food will rise dramatically.”

Zimbabwe declared a national food emergency this month, according to the WFP rep in the capital, Harare. Food production is just half of what it was last year, and the staple grain, maize, is 53 percent more expensive.

Water scarcity remedies range from simple conservation and efficiency, to tree planting and wastewater re-use, to highly technical and expensive facilities such as nuclear desalination plants as advocated by the International Atomic Energy Agency  that would turn seawater into freshwater.

Finding sustainable solutions to water scarcity will be the focus of the annual World Water Week in Stockholm, held this year from August 28 to September 2. Hosted and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), this year’s theme is Water for Sustainable Growth.

Water experts, technicians, decision makers, business innovators and young professionals from more than 100 countries are expected in Stockholm to network, exchange ideas and foster innovations that could help satisfy the urgent needs of four billion people for water.

One such innovation is the world’s first certified green bond. It was just issued by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) under the Water Climate Bonds Standard, whose criteria was co-developed by SIWI and the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation.

The Water Climate Bonds Standard is a screening tool for investors that specifies the criteria that must be met for bonds to be labeled as “green” or earmarked for funding water-related, resilient, and low-carbon initiatives.

Proceeds from the SFPUC’s $240m Wastewater Revenue Bond  will fund projects in sustainable stormwater and wastewater management.


Featured image: California fruit growers, farmers and ranchers are suffering through an epic drought, Coalinga, California, April 23, 2015 (Photo by ATOMIC Hot Links) Creative Commons license via Flickr

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION TIPS FOR EARTH DAY AND BEYOND

Act Local, Think Global: Three Ways to Ignite Positive Environmental Change

 Arlington, VA – Friday, April 22, 2016 – In observance of Earth Day, the international conservation organization Rare is offering up three easy ways you can be a catalyst for global change.

The strain on the Earth’s natural resources poses an increasing threat to the well-being of both people and nature. Though people are often the source of these pressures, they also hold the solutions – and it all starts with behavior.

Salmon_for_sale1.  Ensure your seafood is sourced sustainably.

42% of people worldwide rely on fish as an important source of protein.

Most of the world’s fisheries are unmanaged and overexploited, and are in serious decline. This puts our food supply in jeopardy and makes ecosystems less healthy and more vulnerable to climate and other changes. A compelling action a single consumer can take is purchasing local, sustainably caught seafood. Check packaging labels, diversify your selection, and seek out seafood guides that list which fish that are caught and sourced sustainably.

Helpful articles on Sustainable Seafood:

2.  Organize or join a community-led clean up near waterways to prevent contamination to rivers, lakes and other fresh water sources.

 Freshwater ecosystems cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, but are home to 35% of all vertebrate species.

A healthy watershed, with its forests and unique biodiversity, provides water storage, regulates and filters fresh water and is critical to flood management to surrounding areas. By removing plastics bottles, bags, and other debris along the waterway, you ensure the watershed ecosystem remains healthy and productive.

Helpful Waterways Cleanup resources: 

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3.    Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and get to know your local farmer, what they grow, and how they grow it.Agriculture is one of the leading sources of water pollution worldwide.

Small-scale farmers often overuse fertilizer, pesticides and other harmful chemicals. This pollution leaches into streams and aquifers with dangerous effects, finding ways into wetland and river ecosystems. Community Supported Agriculture Networks are an easy and delicious way to engage in your community, and encourage others to adopt more sustainable behaviors. Ensuring that your food is grown locally and pesticide-free benefits the health of both people and nature alike.

Helpful Community Supported Agriculture resources: 

“We believe that conservation’s greatest challenges are the result of human behaviors. And, so too are the solutions,” said Brett Jenks, CEO of Rare. “Rare’s signature Pride campaigns inspire pride around unique natural assets and create a clear path for local change.  By empowering communities to seek their own solutions, the change tends to stick.”

Rare has been implementing proven conservation solutions and training local leaders in communities worldwide for more than 25 years.  Rare’s hope is to inspire people to take pride in their community, not just on Earth Day but all year, and suggests these practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices.


 

Rare-Logo-FullColorABOUT RARE

Rare is an innovative conservation organization that implements proven conservation solutions and trains local leaders in communities worldwide.  Through its signature Pride campaigns, Rare inspires people to take pride in the species and habitats that make their community unique, while also introducing practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices. Employees of local governments or non-profit organizations receive extensive training on fisheries management, campaign planning and social marketing to communities.  They are equipped to deliver community-based solutions based on natural and social science, while leveraging policy and market forces to accelerate change through programs such as Fish Forever.  To learn more about Rare.

 

Images: Creative commons license via Wikipedia and free stock photos 

Jordan’s Refugees Must Drink

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By Sunny Lewis

AMMAN, Jordan, March 24, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Jordan, one of the world’s driest countries, is dumping much of its water into the sand – allowing 76 billion liters a year to flow from broken pipes, according to an assessment by the nonprofit aid organization Mercy Corps.

“By one estimate, the amount of water lost nationwide every year could satisfy the basic needs of 2.6 million people, or more than a third of Jordan’s current population. It is a tragedy of waste,” mourns the report, “Tapped Out: Water Scarcity and Refugee Pressures in Jordan.

Published in 2014, the report outlines urgent needs and provides key recommendations to guide institutional donor efforts and policies, advisories that are even more urgent today as distressed refugees from war-torn Syria surge across the border into northern Jordan.

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis five years ago, Jordan has borne the impact of this massive Syrian refugee influx. Today, those refugees account for about 10 percent of the kingdom’s population of 6.3 million, placing severe pressure on its water resources at a difficult economic period.

The Mercy Corps report quotes former deputy prime minister of Jordan Marwan al-Muasher, who warns, “Water scarcity is an existential threat to Jordan.”

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

Based on interviews conducted in three northern governorates in Jordan – Amman, Mafraq, and Irbid, the areas taking the greatest number of Syrian refugees – the Mercy Corps report asks donors to invest in long-term infrastructure development, strengthen government agencies and address the nexus of conflict and conservation.

A team of Mercy Corps engineers is working to rebuild the aging water system so that both Jordanian and Syrian refugee families will have enough clean water to stay healthy. Their work has already improved access to clean water for 500,000 people in Jordan.

Ghassan “Gus” Hazboun, Mercy Corps’ Water Engineering Director, said last July that in Jordan’s northern areas the leakage can be up to 70 percent of the water that flows through the network. “So we have water that’s already been treated, already been pumped from the aquifer to far-away places, and then we lose that water in the network,” he said.

“The best thing we can do, the only way forward, is to treat the network – to fix any damage and spare the waste of water. Reclaiming that wasted water is better than finding a new source of water,” said Hazboun.

Mercy Corps started with two wells in the Zaatari refugee camp, and now has three wells there, one well in Azraq camp, and several projects in host communities.

“We recently developed a well near the border between Jordan and Syria,” said Hazboun. “The water comes here, to the water treatment and filter area. And now we are ready to build a new pump station, control building, and a 500-cubic-meter reservoir.”

“This infrastructure is very important for the northern areas, including the city of Mafraq. The water we are providing goes to all the houses and we are supplying everybody, both Jordanians and Syrians,” Hazboun explained.

The World Bank is working to increase Jordan’s water supply in a different way.

On Monday, the bank released an account of its efforts to help the Jordanian government restore ecosystems and improve people’s livelihoods in the Badia desert, which covers about 80 percent of the country.

The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility are collaborating on a US$3.3 million grant to help the government create opportunities for the nomadic Bedouin livestock breeders of the Badia and make them more resilient to climate change and water scarcity.

Through the Badia Ecosystem and Livelihoods Project, this work is focused in Mafraq and Ma’an, impoverished governorates in north and south Badia with diverse, fragile ecosystems, unique archaeology and ancient history.

Livelihoods Project partner National Center for Agriculture Research and Extension (NCARE) is establishing rangeland reserves and reservoirs of rainwater for animal drinking. A mandated rest period in the reserves is allowing endemic plants, gone for 20 years, to re-emerge.

The bank also is supporting “high-value, low-volume ecotourism” by working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to establish an ecotourism corridor in Mafraq that is already attracting other donors.

The project is expanding ecotourism by strengthening RSCN’s Al Azraq wetlands reserve and the Shaumari wildlife reserve.

All this work and investment is crucially important to Jordan, one of the world’s most water-vulnerable countries, but more help is needed.

Struggling with low rainfall, limited surface water storage, excessive groundwater mining and high dependence on waters shared by neighboring countries, Jordan now must also provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In view of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, influential countries such as the United States should consider how to help the region’s vulnerable nations steer clear of destabilizing water crises, says Professor Steven Gorelick who teaches at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Jordan is a peaceful and generous country that has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees,” Gorelick said in January. “The U.S. is not sufficiently helping that country deal with the consequent stress of inadequate water supply.”

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are over-pumping groundwater, he said. In Jordan, where people depend on groundwater for 80 percent of their freshwater, levels are dropping three feet (one meter) each year, and will likely be depleted by 30 to 40 percent within the next 15 years.

“Refugee migrations from conflict-torn lands and global warming-related extreme weather will likely worsen the situation,” said Gorelick.

Gorelick heads the Stanford Woods Institute’s Global Freshwater Initiative, focused on developing a comprehensive national hydro-economic model to evaluate new supply options and demand strategies.

The initiative is coordinating the Jordan Water Project, an international, interdisciplinary research effort aimed at developing new approaches for analyzing strategies to enhance the sustainability of freshwater resources in Jordan and, ultimately, arid regions throughout the world.


Featured image: Refugee child draws water in Zaatari Refugee camp in northern Jordan. Coming from a country with sufficient supply of water however, Syrian refugees are adjusting to water scarcity, especially difficult for mothers and children. (Photo by European Commission) Creative commons license via Flickr
Header image: A view of Zaatari refugee camp, where at least 80,000 refugees live, is located 10 km east of Mafraq, Jordan, June 2014. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Building in Many Shades of Green

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LEED Platinum Certified airlines office building, Schiphol, Haarlemmermeer, North Holland, the Netherlands, November 2015 (Photo by Jeroen P.M. Meijer) Creative commons license via Flickr

 

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “When you ask me, ‘what is a green building?’ I don’t have a very good answer,” confesses Josefina Lindblom, European Commission Policy Adviser on resource efficiency in the building sector.

Speaking in the second episode of the “Construction Climate Talks” series released on YouTube March 15, Lindblom says, “The building sector is one of the biggest resource users in our society. It uses about 50 percent of our extracted materials and more than 50 percent of our energy. A third of our water use goes to buildings, and more than a third of our waste is construction and demolition waste.”

“A wider approach to the use of buildings is necessary,” says Lindblom. Not only extraction and production of materials, to construction and use of the building, she says, “but also the end of life phase and what happens then.”

The web video series is a project of the Construction Climate Challenge Initiative, hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment.

“We want to promote sustainability throughout the entire construction industry,“ says Niklas Nillroth, vice president, environment and sustainability at Volvo CE. “We are hopeful that our film series will work as a contributing factor in the matter of making people aware and to enhance cross-sector collaboration throughout the construction industry value chain.”

In November 2015, Construction Climate Talks premiered with the first episode, three minutes featuring Professor Johan Rockström. Executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, he teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University.

“If we continue with business as usual,” says Rockström on camera, “even a conservative assessment concludes that we are on an average pathway towards a four degree Celsius warming by the end of this century. We would have sea levels irreversibly moving beyond one meter of height, we would have new kinds of pandemics, heat waves, disruptions such as droughts and floods. Unless we have a good, stable planet, everything else would be unachievable anyway.”

But some still have “an obsolete, erroneous logic” that sustainability could threaten the economy,” he said. “Nothing could be more wrong.”

Even though many people still resist change, Rockström is optimistic that “the grand majority” sees that “sustainability is a vehicle for success, not an impediment to success.”

“We should move with the coalitions of the willing,” says Rockström, “and show by doing that this is actually something that benefits business, gets better profit, gets better reputation and is even more attractive.”

While energy use is only part of the green building equation, it’s an important part.

Across the European Union, energy efficiency regulation for greener commercial buildings is fast approaching, in line with the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement reached by 195 governments at the annual United Nations climate conference in December.

“A decree in France is expected in June for commercial buildings. They will be required to reduce their energy use by 25 percent by 2020. No question that most of European countries will follow in the coming years,” wrote Siham Ghalem-Tani, executive assistant and partnership relations officer with the French Institute for Building Efficiency (IFPEB) on March 14. This business-led coalition is intended to implement “an ambitious and efficient energy and environmental transition” in the European real estate and building sectors.

The European energy competition CUBE 2020, now in its third year, is serving as a catalyst for tenants of commercial buildings to meet the EU’s energy reduction objectives. This year, the 123 candidates, located in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, are on track for an expected outcome of 10 percent energy savings from July 2015 to July 2016.

Julien Cottin, manager of the Energy and Environmental Studies Centre of the Bordeaux metropolitan area, said, “Prior to our registration of four buildings in the CUBE 2020 competition, we had prioritized major works on our buildings, such as thermal renovation operations or improving energy efficiency. Our participation afforded us an opportunity to look at the uses of buildings and to adopt a new mindset.”

Cottin said, “The ‘competition’ aspect to CUBE 2020 provides a real dynamic for working on the behavior of the users of a building. The results are conclusive and motivating!”

Green building standards are becoming increasingly important to investors.

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Worker installs siding during construction of environmentally-friendly green barracks on Fort Eustis, Virginia, USA. All new construction in the Department of Defense must qualify for Silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard, 2009. (U.S. Army Environmental Command photo by Neal Snyder) public domain.

Last week, the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey, the first global effort to assess the environmental and social performance of the global property sector, announced the launch of a Health and Well-being Module.

This optional supplement to the GRESB annual survey for institutional investors evaluates and benchmarks actions by property companies and funds to promote the health and well-being of employees, tenants and customers. It features 10 new indicators, including: leadership, needs assessment, implementation and performance monitoring.

“The design, construction and operation of our built environment has a profound impact on individuals and populations,” said Chris Pyke, chief operating officer with GRESB, which has offices in Washington, Amsterdam and Singapore.

The GRESB Health and Well-being Module is now available in pre-release on the GRESB website and will be open for submission starting April 1.

“The GRESB Health and Well-being Module will make real estate companies and funds more transparent and make comparative information more accessible and actionable for investors. This represents an important step toward resolving long-standing market failures and making health an investible attribute of real estate,” says Dr. Matt Trowbridge, associate professor, associate research director, Department of Public Health, University of Virginia School of Medicine.

In the United States, green buildings abound, encouraged by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, co-founded by current CEO Rick Fedrizzi and partners in 1993. Fedrizzi also sits on the GRESB Board.

The U.S. Green Building Council pioneered the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification program, now used worldwide.

LEED offers four certification levels for new construction: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These correspond to the number of credits achieved in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

In addition to its many other activities, the U.S. Green Building Council is a contributing partner to the Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report.

Released in February, the SmartMarket Report, covers nearly 70 countries. It shows that global green building continues to double every three years.

New commercial construction was the top sector for expected green building projects in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, China and India.

The United States shared the lowest expected levels of green commercial building with Australia.

Still, 46 percent of U.S. respondents indicated they expected to embark on new institutional green projects in the next three years.

Across all regions, many survey respondents forecast that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.

“International demand for green building, due in great part to the LEED green building program’s global popularity, has grown steadily over the years,” said Fedrizzi.

“Countries are looking for tools that support stable and sustainable economic growth. International business leaders and policymakers recognize that a commitment to transforming the built environment is crucial to addressing major environmental challenges,” he said.

The SmartMarket report shows that increasing consumer demand has pushed the world’s green building market to a trillion-dollar industry, a surge that has led to a parallel increase in the scope and size of the green building materials market, now expected to reach $234 billion by 2019.

It appears that the European Commission’s Lindblom is going to get the “wider approach” to green building she has been seeking.


Featured image: BMW Head Office, Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. Designed by Hans Hallen, the building has recently been refurbished and modernized, implementing green principles. Thermal comfort and energy efficiency were addressed with lighting, ventilation, hot water supply and back-up solutions which required the construction of a satellite Energy Centre. The building achieved a 5-star As Built Green Star South Africa rating, December 2015. (Photo by Colt Group) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Sustainable Standard Set for Half the World’s Main Dish

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MANILA, Philippines, November 11, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The world’s first standard for sustainable rice cultivation debuted late last month, presented by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP)a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organizations.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme convened the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) five years ago in order to promote resource use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems so important to global food security.

At its 5th Annual Plenary Meeting and General Assembly in Manila October 27-29 the Sustainable Rice Platform welcomed representatives of its 29 institutional stakeholders.

Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director and Representative UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, opened the meeting by reminding the more than 120 delegates that at least half the world’s people rely on rice.

“With more than half the world’s population, 3.5 billion people, depending on rice for 20 percent or more of their daily calories, and almost one billion of the world’s poorest people dependent on rice as a staple, we are reminded of the critical importance of rice,” she said, “rice as a source of livelihoods and food and nutritional security for billions; rice as a consumer of land, water and other natural assets; and on the other hand, rice as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”

“According to IRRI, by 2050, we are going to need 50 percent more rice to feed the world’s population,” said Louis, “and most of this increase will have to come from intensification and increased productivity.”

The new Sustainable Rice Standard is made up of 46 requirements, covering issues from productivity, food safety, worker health, and labor rights to biodiversity protection.

One requirement, for instance, is documented proof that the soil is safe from heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead.

Another that inbound water is obtained from clean sources that are free of biological, saline, and heavy metal contamination.

A third requirement is that measures are in place to enhance water-use efficiency.

An attached set of quantitative Performance Indicators enables farmers and market supply chain participants to gauge the sustainability of a rice system, and to monitor and reward progress or the lack of progress.

“The SRP Standard represents the world’s first initiative that will set environmentally sustainable and socially responsible rice production management standards,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

“Our key challenge now,” he said, “is to incentivize and scale up adoption, especially among resource-poor small farmers.”

The SRP says a fifth of the world’s population depends on rice cultivation for their livelihoods.

The SRP Standard uses environmental and socio-economic benchmarks to accomplish three things: maintain yields for rice smallholders, reduce the environmental footprint of rice cultivation, and meet consumer needs for food safety and quality.

Development of the standard draws on global experience in other sustainable commodity initiatives such as sugar, cotton, coffee and palm oil, said the developers: UTZ Certified, Aidenvironment and IRRI and members of the Sustainable Rice Platform.

They took into account the unique challenges rice cultivation presents for environmental protection.

Growing rice uses 30 to 40 percent of the world’s freshwater and contributes between five and 10 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, especially the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4), according to the IRRI.

The crop yield is declining from 2.2 percent during the 20 years from 1970-90 to less than 0.8 percent since then.

And the global rice production area also is declining due to land conversion, salinization and increased water scarcity.

To complicate matters, pesticides used on rice kill nontarget rice field fauna, accumulate in the food chain, runoff from the ricefields, pollute the water table, and take their toll on farmers’ health.

Paddy fields and irrigation systems facilitate breeding of mosquitoes that act as vectors of malaria, lymphatic filariasis, Japanese encephalitis and dengue.

All these effects can be more extreme in tropical and subtropical environments, where climatic and cultural conditions are more favorable to vector-borne diseases and CH4 production.

Kaveh Zahedi, director of the UNEP Regional Office of Asia and the Pacific, has confidence in the effectiveness of the new standard to solve many of these problems.

“For most of Asia Pacific, rice is a staple. It is part of the social fabric and influences many aspects of our lives – economic, social and religious,” Zahedi said.

“The SRP Standard and Indicators will help ensure that the cultivation of this vital commodity becomes more sustainable and benefits people, communities and the planet.”

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: Caption: Spring rice planting in Chiba Prefecture, Japan (Photo by Phil Hendley under creative commons license via Flickr)
Featured image: Harvesting rice in northern Vietnam (Photo by Tran Thi Hoa / World Bank under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01: Rice terraces in northern Bali, Indonesia (Photo by Patrik M. Loeff under creative commons license via Flickr)

Nonprofit Lawyers: It’s not an Oxymoron, It’s ELAW

ELAWlawyersBy Sunny Lewis

EUGENE, Oregon, October 19, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The nonprofit Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) is the go-to organization for 300+ lawyers in more than 70 countries who act as environmental defenders.

Based in an historic house in downtown Eugene, the ELAW Secretariat helps its partners around the world gain skills and build strong organizations of their own that will work to protect the environment for years to come.

ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson says, “Our work is better known in Jakarta or Mexico City or New Delhi than it is in Eugene.”

Since 10 lawyers started ELAW in 1989, the organization has offered the legal tools to help associates strengthen existing environmental laws, bring enforcement actions, critique proposed statutes, and replicate model laws.

These advocates rely on ELAW staff scientists to critique plans for proposed developments, develop systems to monitor environmental conditions, provide expert testimony, and recommend cleaner alternatives.

ELAW has hosted more than 100 lawyers for fellowships. They come to Eugene to gain language skills, tap legal and scientific resources, work closely with ELAW staff, and learn from U.S. efforts to protect communities and the environment.

Funded by donations from foundations and private citizens, ELAW has a budget for helping lawyers challenging injustice, who often face serious legal or other consequences for their advocacy.

 

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Clearing India’s Ganges River of Industrial Polluters

For 30 years, ELAW partners in India, led by the pioneering Goldman Prize winner M.C. Mehta, have fought to clean up the Ganges River. Contamination in the Ganges far exceeds World Health Organization standards.

A case that began in 2013 when ELAW partners Rahul Choudhary and Ritwick Dutta filed a suit in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against a single polluter in the town of Simbhaoli has mushroomed into a case against some 1,000 industrial polluters along the Ganges River in five states.

Last fall, the Supreme Court gave the NGT exclusive jurisdiction to clean up the Ganges, and the NGT responded by sending teams of inspectors to investigate each polluting industry.

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik is reviewing inspection reports and helping partners identify which polluters are violating the law and harming the Ganges.

This approach is yielding results. More than 60 industries that had been operating without wastewater pollution controls have been closed, including dozens of tanneries in the notorious Jajmau industrial district of Kanpur.

Read a report from ELAW on Cleaning up the Ganges.

 

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Ukraine’s Rivers Dammed to Trickles

Remote rivers in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains are among the world’s most beautiful, but ELAW advocates allege that “corrupt investors” are “installing small hydropower projects that are reducing rivers to a trickle, stranding fish.”

More than 300 small hydropower projects are proposed for the region.

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel traveled to Verkhovyna in the Ivano-Frakivsk region in August to help Ukrainian partners protect the rivers.

Joining her were staff scientist Petro Testov and staff attorneys Marta Pankevych and Nataliia Kuts from ELAW’s partner organization, Environment-People-Law.

“What we saw was devastating,” Weiskel exclaimed. “Dams and pipes were siphoning most of the water out of rivers, leaving small fish ladders so poorly constructed that fish had no chance of survival. Sediment-filled water dumped by powerhouses compromised water quality for hundreds of meters downstream.”

The Carpathians are being destroyed, she says. “In the wake of the new roads servicing the dams and powerhouses, we saw illegal logging, fragmented landscapes, and the disruption of natural migration for many species.”

At a September 7 roundtable in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Environment-People-Law Executive Director Olena Kravchenko called for a moratorium on small hydropower “until the government, investors, and developers can meet strict criteria to protect the viability of this watershed.”

Globally, water pollution is getting worse as the population grows.

The United Nations says 80 percent of all sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated into waterways. There is the legacy pollution of abandoned mines and drill sites, and polluting industries, such as leather and chemicals, seek to set up shop in emerging economies.

Read the UN report “Sick Waters? – The Central Role of Wastewater Management in Sustainable Development”

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Safeguarding Guatemala’s Clean Water

The Motagua River flows from Guatemala’s Western Highlands, gathering the waters of 29 other rivers as it runs to the Gulf of Honduras. But today it does not flow as cleanly as it has for centuries.

“Tons of domestic and industrial waste, untreated effluent, and sewage from urban and rural communities go right into the river,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu who toured the Motagua this summer. “The neglect and level of contamination is appalling.”

In Guatemala, an ELAW staff scientist is working with the Guatemalan organization Environmental and Water Law Alliance to raise awareness about Motagua River pollution and engage citizens and government authorities in conservation

“Cleaning up the Motagua is not just about protecting nature, it’s about giving local people dignity,” says Lu.

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De-Oiling Peruvian Rivers

Since 2002 ELAW has helped advocates in Peru protect indigenous communities and rivers of the Peruvian Amazon – the Corrientes, the Tigre, the Pastaza, and the Marañón rivers – from toxic oil industry pollution.

In the early 1970s, multinational oil companies, such as Oxy and PlusPetrol, began drilling for oil in these watersheds. Many pipelines have ruptured and the companies have released contaminated by-products into the water.

The contamination has harmed Quechuea, Achuar, and Cocama Cocamilla indigenous communities, who rely on these rivers for clean water and fish.

The contamination in the four river basins has become so severe that Peruvian authorities declared an environmental emergency in September 2013.

Lu has been helping the indigenous federations in collaboration with PUINAMUDT, an umbrella organization formally named Observatorio Petrolero de la Amazonia Norte.

She has interpreted dozens of water quality reports containing evidence of how the Corrientes, Tigre, Pastaza, and Marañón rivers have been harmed by oil and gas activities and presented this evidence at workshops with community leaders and government representatives.

In April, after lengthy debate, the Peruvian Congress set aside US$50 million to clean up contamination in these watersheds and plan to prevent and respond to future spills.

Now Lu is helping ELAW’s Peruvian partners design and implement a health and toxicology assessment of the affected communities.

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Fuming Over Coal in Egypt’s Cement Industry

Egyptians are concerned that without citizen input their government is moving to allow multinational cement corporations to switch from clean burning gas to polluting coal-fired kilns.

The cement companies are facing lack of access to a reliable natural gas supply. The switch saves corporate dollars but threatens public health.

“Natural gas-fired cement plants do not emit any particulate matter or sulfur dioxide,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Chernaik. “By switching to coal, the plants will emit twice as much CO2 [carbon dioxide], and add particulates and SO2 [sulphur dioxide] on top.”

ELAW partners at the Habi Center for Environmental Rights say the plans by Lafarge and Suez Cement “violate the environmental rights of citizens, especially their right to health, healthy clean environment, right to information and participation.”

Habi and eight local organizations are demanding that the companies make public the environmental impacts of switching to coal.

Lafarge is experimenting with municipal waste as a fuel. There’s no access problem. Cairo produces 15,000 tons of municipal waste each day, while the El Sokhna Lafarge plant uses just 15-20 tons a day.

To ensure quality and regularity of supply, Lafarge involved the Zabbaleen, the local informal network who have sorted and resold Cairo’s recyclable waste for the past 80 years. A team of Zabbaleen people was hired and trained to collect, treat and recycle waste for Lafarge Egypt.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy agreed this month to assess the environmental impact of seven out of 19 cement companies that have conducted studies to use coal as an alternative source of energy.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: ELAW Logo
Header image: ELAW lawyers, partner advocates, scientists and staff at the 2015 ELAW Annual International Meeting, Yachats, Oregon, March 2015.  (Photo courtesy ELAW)
Image 01: Waterway in the Jajmau industrial district of Kanpur, India. (Photo by Mark Chernaik courtesy ELAW)
Image 02: One of the small hydropower dams being built in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains (Photo courtesy ELAW)
Image 03: Children Washing Hands at School Handwashing Station in Pahuit, Guatemala photo by Cecilia Snyder photo courtesy Flicker – Water For People/Nancy Haws
Image 05:  Egyptian cement bags courtesy PEi