Barnafoss, Iceland
Aerial view of glacial water Barnafoss, Iceland © Khairil Junos

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Nature for Water: A series of utility spotlights

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. 

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 underutilized, 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 TNC's Andrea Erickson-Quiroz, Managing Director, Water Security.

Integrating nature into water utility operations or using NBS involves multiple, interdependent stakeholders at various governance levels, and consequently regulators play a key role in creating the enabling environments for these interactions and negotiations. 

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. However, the organisations 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.

Current institutional settings often fragment how water utilities can apply NBS in their operational plans.  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 offers evidence that holistic and coherent approaches to solutions can be designed through multi-stakeholder platforms.

“The IWA can facilitate collaboration and provides these 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 publicizing 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.

IWA and TNC are working together to encourage and facilitate active utility involvement in NBS, as well as promoting stronger connections between water utilities and regulatory bodies. The partnership aims to support those water utilities and water regulators looking to harness nature as a means of ensuring water security.

Access the open source publication from IWA Publishing here

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.