Two of the most immediate threats to freshwater ecosystems are hydropower dams and the use of water for agriculture. Dam building is predicted to increase dramatically in Asia, Africa, and Latin America over the next decade, and many of these dams will have severe impacts on freshwater ecosystems.
CI and partners recognize the need for energy and sufficient water for crop irrigation, but we believe that provision of multiple benefits is possible through sound resource planning and management.
Challenging the Threat: Integrated Resource Planning
One way to answer these questions of costs and benefits of energy and natural-service provision is through Integrated Resources Planning, which (for water projects) determines the means of maximizing water and electricity services required for human livelihoods, while minimizing biodiversity and habitat loss.
In China and Cambodia, for example, CI is comparing the cost-effectiveness of proposed hydrodams based on energy demands, potential energy yields, and costs of human population resettlement, sedimentation and biodiversity loss, all of which help build arguments for lower-risk, lower-cost water and energy service options.
Similar approaches have been empirically demonstrated in states like California and nations like Israel, both of which adopted highly innovative public policies, market-driven utility regulations, and market incentives for delivering the least-cost and lowest-risk electric, natural gas and water utility services.
Challenging the Threat: Increasing Efficiency
Another cost-effective way to meet human demand for fresh water is to increase efficiency. Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water demand, but wastes up to 80 percent of water used for conventional crop irrigation.
CI is also exploring water efficiency and quality standards through the Water Stewardship Alliance and other partnerships. The magnitude and complexity of our global freshwater challenges demand innovative, cutting-edge solutions.
We are equipped and prepared to use the latest policy and economic tools to address the threats to freshwater ecosystems by quantifying the valuable services they provide to human communities, and by showing how much people benefit from intact functioning ecosystems.
For example, CI is partnering with others to help ratify the United Nations Watercourse Convention, which helps address transboundary water conflict and resource management issues.