Catalyst California August 25th: Introduction of Guests
Carl: So to help make sense to the bigger water questions in this time is serious disruptions globally, we’ve disassembled the unprecedented roster of experts and journalists across timezones to help to find a better water future. So today we’re joined by Junaid Kamal Ahmad, Director of the Water Global Practice at the World Bank Group. Lindsay Bass, Manager of Corporate Water Stewardship at World Wildlife Fund. Mats Eriksson, Director of Climate Change at the Stockholm International Water Institute. Peter Gleick, Co-Founder and President of The Pacific Institute. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute. Our host here today and also a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water. And Upmanu Lall is here, Director of The Columbia Water Center at Columbia University, also we’re joined by Ben Braga, President of the World Water Council.
You can find more details on ongoing coverage online at circleofblue.org and to share your questions and comments via Twitter use the #knowwater.
Now we have Torgny Holmgren, he’s the Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute and, you know, first… thanks for hosting us during the incredible week of 25th Anniversary, so big year for Stockholm and I’m hoping you can start us of with an overview last week we heard more about climate impacts tide water scarcity and water security. And you’ve just come two minutes ago from a session on water and climate change and focusing on the upcoming climate talks in Paris. So starting with California, can you give us more of an overall prespective, what are you thinking about when it comes to water and climate news big issues?
Torgny: Thanks a lot Carl and welcome to Stockholm Sweden Downtown Stockholm, where we celebrate the 25th World Water Week and then let me give you some international perspective on the California context, looking back, 25 years ago very few outside the water and development communities spoke about water crisis both of us not on the agenda in the early days of climate change discussion. Today, water crisis is all to speak about at all constant presence in the daily news from California to San Paolo, China, Sahel, everywhere you go, different continents water crisis is around the corner. So we can longer talk about water supply taken that for granted on and that’s we see it from our side that many local because these are local water crisis together combined to several water situations on the global scale and that is what we’re here to discuss during the World Water Week in Stockholm. To give you some example about what we’re discussing, to make this finance resource of water more available for the future 9 billion people that we will have or in the mid center, if you indicate from now, we need to improve on the way we use water, we cannot overuse water the way we do today and that is for every country and every local situation in the world. So whereas, both efficiency is a driving force, I would like water efficiency to be become as common a concept as energy efficiency has been for quite sometime. And to make that happen we need incentives or cost bond in center because it’s the drought itself but they’re also need to have economic instruments that tries us to make more improved in the future. Another thing, different economic instruments like pricing will pay you more critical role in the future to the benefit not only of drought stricken area but also areas all over the world, so that is bond driving force.
We have terrific opportunity this fall with the decision on SDGs the Sustainable Development Goals coming up in New York end of September and the COP21 the Conference of the Parties climate change in Paris in early December. Of course those are very important events but those are events based on action oriented in the sense if you don’t take action and action is taken on the local level so my firm believe is that to make the climate change negotiations to happen on the ground, you’ll need to include and also activate the local communities, be the cities, the mayors of the world, local municipalities and also see very encouraging news from our progress, from our corporations in the world, the business sector has come to realize that work is not granted for the supply chain and also production. So I think the combination of businesses, local municipalities, cities, national legislators and civil side, that is the four fronts that will drive us to use water more efficient in the future.
Carl: Well, thank you, thank you so much Torgny and these are the conversations we’ve been hearing here. And also sitting right next to Torgny is Ben Braga, President of the World Water Council and Ben you just came from the same press briefing and I want you just to follow on that, you’re kind of a special guest popping in here today and if you could add, you know, the perspectives you just hosted the World Water Forum in Korea, how have you seen these conversations change over the last few years, even though last 25 years?
Ben: Well, thank you very much Carl for inviting me here, impromptu and it was very challenging but, I think that this issue of droughts is one that is motivating the political class more and more. We tend to think that the Global International Agreement will provide the solution for the water management problems but as Torgny rightly pointed out, water is a local issue and the solution to the water problems are local and regional. These international agreements like the SDG, like the Cop21 are very important in motivating the global community but the World Water Council through the World Water Forums and through our network, we are working towards motivating mayors, national legislators for the importance of having the right water management in place. Not only that, but we are also looking at financing. I think financing is a critical issue because in order to face the climate variability and change in the future and now of course, it is necessarily to have the infrastructure and to have the institutions, to have the innovative capacity in government. So, all of these components are extremely important but how can we have them implemented, we need to have the right financial arrangements so that local governments can really implement these necessary options to cope with climate change.
Carl: Well, thank you Ben Braga, President of the World Water Council, thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate that. In a moment we’ll be joining by Circle of Blue reporter Brett Walton who will introduce our other guests.
Brett: Thanks Carl, this is the 3rd event that we’ve posted in the Catalyst series. Each event is taken a water and water frame, looking at this issue of droughts in water scarcity. So earlier this month we explore California’s responses and the phase of emergency with farmers, state officials and others are doing right now to respond. Though we heard stories and transitions last week what various cities and agencies are doing to prepare for a 21st century, will water condition of a massively different than they are today. So in today, in Stockholm, a thousands of experts and advocates and leaders gathered, a major part of the conversation is how responses to California’s drought to inform other places in the world that are going through similar crisis. The world’s eyes is certainly on California, so the questions are, How can the state innovate? What lessons could be drawn from California and applied to other regions in the world? So we have a terrific panel or guest here today. We’re going to start off with opening statements from each of them. I’ll introduce each guest individually and then let them give their opening statement, this would be brief introductions to some of the ideas that they will expand on in the large group discussions which will follow.
Our first guest is Peter Gleick, he’s the Co-Founder and President of The Pacific Institute at the Research Organization based in Oakland, California that gives solutions to the world water challenges. So Peter, what is not worthy about California’s response to this drought emergency?
Peter: Well, hello everyone, I’m also calling in from California. I’m sorry not to be at Stockholm this year and see many of my friends so, hello to everybody there. But there’s been a major 2 day meeting here yesterday and today in Sacramento in the state capital to talk about climate change issues facing California including the drought and there is the One Water Leadership Meeting later this week and so I just couldn’t manage to get on another airplane. Basically the quick message that I would like to give in the introduction is we’ve been thinking about climate change and water issues in California for a long time, that effort has really been intensified by the recent drought, where in the 4th year now of a very severe drought and in fact eleven of the last 15 years in California have been at normally drought. We’re trying to understand what the impacts of the droughts are, impacts to ecosystem’s, impacts to local communities especially some of the poor communities in the Central Valley of California, impacts towards energy system, we know that we’ve lost substantial amounts of hydropower generation because of the loss of surface water supplies and we had to make up for that by burning more natural gas ironically enough worsening our green house gas emission problem. Impacts on agriculture of course the vast majority of water used in the state goes to agriculture and California is a fantastic place to grow food but we’re facing challenges in meeting all of the demands in the agricultural sector and in the other sectors for water and of course impacts on cities on our urban landscapes we’re having an interesting conversation all about green lawns in California which perhaps we should never have had but we have extensive areas of landscaping that require water and of course the water require to meet our industrial, commercial and residential needs. But at the same time we’re using the drought as an opportunity to try and figure out what to do about water in general not just have a respond to the severe impacts of the drought but how to deal with our water problems in general because in fact even in the normal wet year we don’t really have enough water to go around anymore and we have water institutional problems, we have technical problems, we have ecosystem challenges and so we’re exploring water efficiency in the urban agricultural sector and agricultural reform we’re exploring waste water reuse and expanding our use of treated waste water, we’re exploring storm water capture and reuse, we’re exploring the way the business community deals with water issues. We do at the Pacific Institute have a very substantial group in Stockholm right now working with the U.N. CEO on mandate and on broader issues of corporate sustainability and perhaps some of you attended some of those efforts. But those are some of the challenges, understanding the impacts, understanding the solutions and understanding the increasing clear links to climate change and those are all issues that I hope we can explore in more detail today. Thank you.
Brett: Excellent, thank you Peter. Our next guest is Mats Eriksson he’s the Program Director for Climate Chance and Water Adaptation at the Stockholm International Water Institute, he studies how societies particular the local level respond to the big changes in water supply. So Mats, how do you leaders make decisions in the phase of rising seas, shrinking snowpack and intense storms?
Mats: Yeah, hello thanks for inviting me. I’m happy to be part of this group and although I visited California a couple of times maybe my main field of expertise but I’ve spent quite sometime working in Iniesta Southern Africa and I spent number of years based in Himalayas working in a clear monsoon climate regime and I can see a lot of similarities in the challenges that people facing California with other parts of the world including Australia where I also happen to spend a number of years in the drought condition. I think my first message is that drought is nothing new, we’ve had to face challenges linked to climate variations since time immemorial but of course society is changing that population on the span, it is growing intensely so we use a lot of plant in a different way compared to what we use before and many ways and means to deal with the drought is not functional anymore. Lost part of Africa for instance, people used to rely, still rely on both agriculture and pastoral for survival and in the past it was easy to move over large region. Now overtime, national boundaries and other constraints have made that impossible. So many people are now more vulnerable. So that’s one aspect that’s why in addition to drought being slightly to be more common and more severe there’s also an increased risk because the way we the society. So that means our adaptation means a test to adapt in a similar way. Just a few bullet points on what we need to look into, I think, I mean one thing is if we deal the agriculture in a drought prone area we need to check, are we really putting the water on the right crops and I’m quite sure that it is not always the case. In many cases we are growing something that we use to grow for a long time and maybe it’s not the best alternatives so there’s a need to look into the top selection of crops that is being grown as well as looking into new varieties etc. Second point, which I think is extremely important when you were working in a drought prone area, with what stress that to make sure there are good policies and regulations which are enforced in a proper way. In many cases the revelations are quite weak and that means when it comes to water that we use, water not in a wise way for instance, the price of water is of course a topic that is being debated over and over again but it remains a fact that water is often to cheap particularly in the agricultural sector. In many cases, very expensive water is not paid for and used to grow a fairly cheap crop. So this is something that used to be looked into. Here, I think California could gain from increased interaction with experience made in Australia where they went through a very, very tough phase of prolonged drought affecting a lot of farmers and in the society. And third point I think, technological innovations, there are range of things that needs to be put into place, we mentioned water fish into irrigation so cheap irrigation pipes avoid open channels etc., reuse of waste water, a topic which I’m sure my colleague Larry will go into later on. In many parts of the world, for instance Namibia a country in a very, very dry area in the Southwest Africa has come a very long way in using waste water and treating it and putting it back into the drinking water channels. So the point link to technological innovations I think is very important in California as well as in many other places, that’s to improve water storage has no is getting less and less in partial of California Sierra Nevadas for instance, we lose very important water storage same happens in Himalayas and the Hindakush where farmers don’t have the ability to rely on all melting snow so here there’s a quite open space for innovative ideas to actually capture rain water, harvest it and store it preferably as ground water, in order to reduce at operation. Then I’d like to highlight the importance to look into a river basin approach for water management, I think in many cases we have a two local focus and we don’t see the options of actually diverting the water to the right course and right part of the basins so we end up might using expensive water in the dry part of the basin while we better maybe divert it downstream or use it for the upstream depending on how the climate looks like in a basin or region and grow the crops we need to grow up in such an area. So at least as in to the virtual water discussion and it’s more efficient and economically wise to transport the goods produced by the water than actually moving the water itself. Finally, I think we need to put a lot of effort in building institutional capacity to act on drought warnings. When we look in the mirror how we dealt with severe droughts in other parts of the world like the horn of Africa, the warnings came up quite early from a number of institutes around the world that where going to a change in phase of drought but the institutions and institutional capacity will actually take action and, you know, in an early stage make sure that communities were prepared for what was coming and did not happened so here’s another very big and important field of where we can improve our way of handling droughts. Thank you very much.
Brett: Thank you, thank you Mats. So next we have Junaid Ahmad, he leads the World Bank Groups, Global Water Practice which supports government to build a water secure world for all. So Junaid, how do you sell water as an issue that government should pay attention to?
Junaid: Thank you for your question but allow me to make a slightly different comment. As I listen to the experts I find that the experts are spot on in terms of indicating where the challenge is in terms of managing droughts, it could be technology, it could be institutions, it could river rangements, but the one thing that I have learned in working on water for the last 20 years is we often don’t ask the question: “Who holds the political power over water?” Because I think the ability to deal with droughts or floods and I’m from Bangladesh always depends on who are really the political masters of water. And that makes water one of the most difficult commodities to manage because unlike most goods you can’t exactly say whether water is a public good, a private good, a political good or a social good and for me what that confusion really means is that property rights over water are not clear. And the moment property rights are not clear you’re not going to get an easy resolution of droughts and floods, so it’s a very important question to ask and particularly to ask in the context of California because the solution to the droughts or the adaptation to the drought whether it’s an optimal one or not depends on whether the power lies with farmers, cities, the energy producers because that’s where the allocation of water has to go between the different constituencies. Coming back to your question, how does one, one sell water? Well, given that I said water is often see is not clear whether it’s a private good or public good, let’s assume it’s a private good, then one wants to talk about market and say, “How do you sell water to the businesses that use water?” Well, today we see that companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle and others and in particular a garment producers are extremely worried that they are not getting access to water or what they’re getting is access to poor quality water. I know that in my own country in Bangladesh, garment producers have been talking with government basically saying that, “Look our future investment in the country is at risk because we’re not getting access to clean water,” yet ironically part of the pollution in water is caused by the garment industry themselves. But if you want to sell water, the private sector or the sector that absorbs water and needs it for their business, you’ve got to clearly begin to have them speak about the cost of a poor management of water. Selling water to government becomes interesting and I think that they’re different constituencies, the deal with government that would look at the concept of selling water. First let’s look at water to households, water to communities, one of the biggest sources of health problems is really poor quality water. Unfortunately, in countries like India, you have stunting in children because of very poor water insanitation, that’s stunting not only affects the economic productivity of citizens but it’s actually an intergenerational passing of poverty. You deal with water insanitation, you change the lives of people, you change the lives of future generation. Second is, that today, the lack of water or the flooding of water is causing huge economic consequences. Why? Because we’ve reached the stage that we’re today in the world where we’re facing thirsty energy, thirsty cities and thirsty agriculture, so the real issue of trade off between food security, energy security and sustaining urbanization, particularly in a time that the world is urbanizing. Well, if you can have such competing needs, you’re going to have to figure out, how to trade water. How to ensure water is delivered across the sectors but at the same time you have to deal with ensuring that agriculture, energy and cities grow in a different way, that they demand on water changes. If you don’t attack the water problem from the users side you have huge problems. So selling water to government that is dealing with economic growth or that has the responsibility to its citizens is really coming at it from the point of view of the economics and point of view of dealing with poverty. But I really come back as a conclusion to the question that I put in to all of you, who in the political economy holds the liver of water? If you can figure that out, you’ll get a sense of a how nation will manage its water.
Brett: Thank you Junaid, we’ll certainly go into more depth on those issues later. Our next guest is one of those people who work with businesses to try and ensure water sustainability. So we have Lindsay Bass, she is the Manager of Corporate Water Stewardship at the the World Wildlife Fund where she works with variety of partners including the Coca Cola Company, Starbucks and Levis on issues ranging from water risk assessments to collective solutions in river basins around the world. So Lindsay, how should business leaders think about drought?
Lindsay: Hi, it’s a pleasure to be with you all this afternoon and good morning to those of you in California. Many are surprised generally when they learned that a big international, environmental, non-profit like World Wildlife Fund works with the private sector on issues like fresh water conservation but I think it’s worth understanding that, you know, a few decades ago, we were working primarily with governments and communities around fresh water conservation issues yet we weren’t moving a needle on really securing sustainable water supply is and fresh water eco system in our priority areas that are real hotspots of university and when we take a look at that why that was, we realize that one of the main drivers of threats in the places that we care about was private sector investment and so it really made us sit back and reevaluate our approach and recognize that we needed to engage the private sector and get them involved in these issues and begin to frame our conversation in a way that would resonate with business. That work is work that we’ve been doing since early 2000 and we’ve really tried to be a thought leader in the space and it’s been pretty impressive just in the last five years where I’ve been working with World Wildlife Fund to really escalate and galvanize the US private sector in these conversations to see how quickly this concept of water stewardship has risen on the corporate agenda. So where it was predominantly a corporate social responsibility topic several years ago, it is now seen by many business leaders around the world and some of our guests here have talked about this but other material business risk. So businesses have seen its impact hit their bottomlines and just earlier this year though, World Economic Forum released their global risk report and water was among the top risk that we’re facing, so it’s a real recognition that I think by the world’s business leaders that in addition to being absolutely critical to securing the well being of the world’s core, water is central to some of the largest economies in the world as well, so we’re really in a position where we can take advantage of that interest really galvanize innovation, expertise and ability of the private sector to help us need this needle but what we need them to do is really moved beyond defense line of their operations so water stewardship and water efficiency just within their plans and operations really isn’t enough. We need them to be looking at how water issues flow through their supply chains, their broader business, how they impact water in water sheds and how those water sheds can impact their businesses as well. So really, we focus with them around securing in basin sustainable water balance, better water quality, improved water governance and the protection of important water related areas and so those four key outcomes are the things that we push forward and we do so through kind of a coordinated approach where we look at the impact of water on the business and then encourage internal action where we can have the greatest business value and rescued action but then utilize and engage with the private sector and collective action efforts as well as policy dialogue in a way that serves the public interest. It is really when we get to those upper echelon issues where we can see a great degree of impact coming from this type of engagement and approach for the private sector. So, when we look at how the private sector is engaging in California and looking to address some of these issues both in California and then more Bradley, I think we’re saying really really great innovation, what we need to do is really understand and articulate those business case studies and escalate that. It needs to grow, it needs to scale, the urgency of the issue really demands that the private sector amplify its action and take more meaningful steps beyond the fence line. That’s all.
Brett: Excellent, thank you Lindsay, I’m sure will get into some pretty interesting case studies on how a business should be looking at the big picture later in the large breakout groups. So next, we’ve heard quite a bit in mention from our panelists about water reuse so our next panelist makes that his career. We have Larry Schimmoller, he is the Global Technology Leader for Water Reuse at CH2M, an engineering firm. He helps plan and design water treatment and water recycling projects. So Larry, what is the role of technology impacting to drought? What are some barriers and the benefits?
Larry: So thank you and thanks for inviting me to this webcast, I’m very happy to be here and participate in this discussion. To answer your questions, I first would like to talk about the background of water reuse. At this stage, everybody is on the same level playing field, first for a water reuse, definition is recycling of treated waste water for beneficial use, we’ve been practicing, our Mother Nature has been practicing water reuse for billions of years, the same water that was here billions of years ago, used by dinosaurs are still used today, so Mother Nature does a very good job of safely recycling the water, so what we are doing is water reuse so just speeding up that process within engineer treatment. There are two main categories of water reuse, non potable reuse or reuse the water for irrigation, industrial, commercial uses and then there’s potable reuse where we’re actually taking the water, recycling it to various areas such as drinking water reservoirs, ground water and even direct potable reuse when you introduce it in today’s water distribution system directly. Those types of applications, both non potable and potable reuse require fair bid of advanced water treatment and the questions about is what technologies are we focusing on with that. I am going to focus on the potable reuse because the trend in the industry is really heading towards potable reuse for seeing a more economic approach in a higher yield for your water supply when you implement potable reuse because you can actually reuse that water year-round. Non potable has some limitations seasonally, so potable reuse actually can be more economical and lead to higher yields for your water supplies. So the types of treatment technology his done, they are varied across the world but most of all you want to use multiple barriers for the removal of organics, trace organic matter in the water and also pathogens, those are the critical ones. You have multiple barriers in place, multiple barriers remove different types of compounds and multiple barriers in place in case one of those processes fails. The types of technology includes membranes or common application, low pressure membranes, such as micro filtration, ultra filtration, typically, hollow fiber construction, they are designed to remove particular matter specially pathogens so that is usually one of the first barriers in potable reuse applications, high pressure membranes are also common and includes membranes such as filtration, reverse osmosis, commonly used in desalination applications for those who are really targeting removal of salt in trace organics. There are some limitations in reverse osmosis eventhough it is used in a lot of occasions and if you are away from the coast generates an arrow concentrates brine which can be very difficult and challenging to dispose of. It is not the [01:46:56.00] for reuse so alternative approach should be investigated there. Advance oxidations commonly use usually with the UV light in combination with some chemicals to create a very highly powerful oxidant to oxidize your trace organics. [01:47:15.09] is the least expensive option if you’re local geologist, hydro geology supports it, we actually percolate the water down to the ground. It provides a phenomenal level of treatment for pathogens as well as the organic matter. And then there’s older technology that is actually becoming more popular again because of the sustainability of it that does not includes biologically active carbon filtration and grain or activated carbonate absorption that target a lot of the organics in the water. Now, when you put all these process together, these technologies, just a couple of these full scale plan I’d like to review real quickly, that have been around for years, that are pretty well known in the industry, the first is the ground water….
Brett: Because of the technical problems, we are running a few minutes behind, you might as well want to save those details on the particular case studies and particular plans for the large breakout groups.
Larry: Sure, no problem, I’d be happy to.
Brett: Alright, so we’ll go to more details in some of the examples of water reuse around the world later as we go into large discussions. Our last panelist here, Manu Lall, is a Professor of Environmental Engineering at Columbia University and the Director of the Columbia Water Center, his more than 30 years of experience in water resource planning and risk analysis. Manu, you worked with Water Managers, officials and farmers around the world. How does drought adaptation differ as you move between countries, continents and regions?
Manu: Thanks Brett, I want to actually start this by saying that the best way to
think about this issue is to look at two major drivers that we face. The first is climate of course, because that determines the supply of water and the second is the demand side and that is determined to a great extent by the policies and practices that are in place and the intersection between these two is what determines the impact of drought. So first, targeting these two California for example, if we look at the current drought that is going on and by our analysis is the worst in 500 years so that seems pretty bad. However if you look at drought as marginally less severe than this, they also have only 50 year drought. So, the difference between the 50 year drought and the 500 year drought is actually not that much and this is something we have to keep in mind as we approach these issues. The second aspect of this appear working on adaptation across the world in our center ranging from Brazil to India or to Utopia or back to the United States is that often as Max said, the agriculture use dominates water use in a particular place and the selection of crops and how they are grown seems to be an issue with this. Now as we have dug in to that particular issue, it seems that that should be a market driven free will process but often it is a process which is actually dictated to a great degree by the policies that the government puts in place through subsidies and other incentives and whether it is in India or in other place, we found that there has to be a level that has to be addressed first because you cannot induce increased efficiency at the farm level unless the economics and the policy structures are consistent with that. Now, coming back to California, the big issue there is the water rate structure as well. There is a water right structure but it is not one that is conducive to creating all other things even though those mechanisms were introduced in California in previous droughts. So strangely, they’ve gone away from those. Now, one last comment and then I think we’ll hold the details for later as you suggested, and that is what is interesting in terms of working with these drivers is that we need the ability usually to change the paradigm, we need the ability on the one hand to increase the predictability of new term climate to give drought warnings to give indications on when you like to come out of drought so that the practices that people are planning in their next agricultural season or other practices that will be operative in the near future can then be properly adjusted and they are not disrupted. This is important to bring up because much of the effort of the research side seems to go towards long term climate change and not towards increasing near term predictability which I think is very important to bring up. The second comment associated with adaptation here is that I think if we can induce predictability or if we have some measure of predictability then facilitating transactions between different users so that higher value used accepts from lower value uses and give them appropriate compensation. Those can be stimulated and that has been already experienced in Brazil and I can get into the details when we go to the breakout groups.
Brett: Excellent! Thank you very much Manu. Those are our panelists, we have a wide range of expertise and knowledge that we will hear more in depth here in the breakout groups.
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