The benefits derived from ecosystems are vital to the economies of many countries and sustainable water management. Despite this, there is compelling evidence that over abstraction, pollution of rivers and groundwater aquifers, and damming and engineering of rivers continue to reduce the ability of natural systems to continue to supply essential services. These services include food, waste assimilation, groundwater recharge and flood control. Water management can contribute to the functioning of ecosystems by using various legal, economic and other water management tools.
Cap-Net and partners have developed a programme to assist water managers to use such tools and implement ecosystem management as part of IWRM. After meetings to develop the programme and training materials in 2010, capacity development activities kicked off in earnest recently at a global training of trainers course in San Jose, Costa Rica from 23-27 May 2011. The training programme was well received by representatives from universities and training institutes, water regulators, water services companies, and NGOs from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Their immediate plans are to replicate the course at regional levels. Despite this interest, the question still remains whether water managers are ready to consider ecosystems services and functions as an integral part of water resources planning and management and not merely an add on activity as in the past. One of the participants at the course Mr Luis Garmez Hernandez from the Public Utilities Company of Heredia presented a case study that showed not only the willingness of water regulators to implement ecosystem based management, but also a high willingness of Costa Rican society to pay for ecosystem services. In the city of Heredia, residents pay a Green Fee together with their water bills. This fee is directly transferred to landowners who maintain or plant forests to conserve watersheds –thus providing the city with water that is clean and cheaper to treat. While this case may not be easily transferable, it demonstrated what improved capacity can achieve when there is sufficient interest to stimulate water managers to use a wide range of tools for improving ecosystem resilience.
This new programme is a partnership between Cap-Net, UNEP, UNESCO-IHE, together with Cap-Net partner networks REDICA and Cap-Net Bangladesh. It is expected that training materials on Ecosystem functions and services will be finalised in the third quarter of this year. For more information get in touch with the following contact people: REDICA (Lilliana Arrieta email@example.com) or Cap-Net (Nick Tandi firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the course blog where information will be posted in future.