The International Water Association (IWA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched the publication Nature for Water: A series of utility spotlights, an Open Access book from IWA Publishing, at the IWA Water and Development Congress in Colombo Sri Lanka.
By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in water stressed conditions. Meanwhile, the degradation of water ecosystems is occurring at alarming rates. Nature Based Solutions (NBS) can provide ways to mitigate and improve water availability and quality.
“Nature, though often underutilised, offers cost-effective and scalable solutions that can provide important co-benefits like carbon mitigation, improved rural livelihoods and biodiversity gains alongside traditional ecosystem services like filtration and recharge.
By establishing nature as a cornerstone of water management, we can transform the water sector for people and nature’s benefit,” states Andrea Erickson-Quiroz, Managing Director, Water Security.
While local mandates on roles and responsibilities vary, utilities and regulators who play an active role in catchment management are uniquely positioned to support the mainstreaming of NBS. However, unlocking this potential requires adapting the roles and expectations each actor is traditionally expected to fulfil.
Water utilities can evolve from traditional roles of water providers to ones of protectors. Utilities and their leadership do need to be proactive, forward thinking and willing to take action in the absence of clear immediate financial returns or regulatory incentives.
Regulators can identify entry points where consideration of NBS can be incorporated into investment plans, policies or procurement practices. By providing such support, regulators can evolve from traditional roles of enforcement to ones of partners.
One of the greatest challenges to mainstreaming NBS stems from a need to strengthen the knowledge base and improve research and innovation on the topic. This publication provides evidence and experience from a variety of water utilities.
“The IWA can facilitate collaboration and provides valuable partnership-building platforms to support the design and implementation of NBS projects,” says Kala Vairavamoorthy, IWA Executive Director.
The case studies in the book tap into diverse geographies and contexts, providing a real-world context that addresses the variety of challenges and elements for success for integrating NBS into water utility operations and planning. By publicising successful case studies, the IWA/TNC partnership fulfils a dual purpose of endorsing these efforts and providing actionable guidance for other water utilities striving to improve their sustainability and resiliency.