Natural Capital Project / Stockholm International Water Institute / The Nature Conservancy / Cap-Net UNDP

Ecosystem based water management: From innovation to practice

Thursday 30 August | 09.00-10.30 | Room: FH Congress Hall A
Susanna Starck, SIWI

Much learning has been generated in recent years about ecosystems-based water management, but is it reaching the right audiences at a meaningful scale? Do practitioners have the right tools and knowledge to apply the ecosystems approach to their own water management? If not, what is hindering uptake? Does practical implementation match theory? Is innovative use being made of technical applications, such as remote sensing, communications technology or big data analytics? Is indigenous knowledge sought out and utilised?

Theorists and researchers need to learn from practitioners and vice versa; policy makers need to incorporate knowledge gained on the ground into their policy and leadership processes. With active participation from these different groups, the seminar will identify pathways to address barriers to uptake through partnerships, guidance and tool development, case studies, collaborative research and more. Our overall aim is to identify water management practice that achieves measurable positive outcomes for people and nature.


Session 1 of 3: Ecosystem Based Water Management: Practice For Delivering Sustainable Outcomes

Seminar Co-ordinator and Rapporteur - Frances Dixon, SIWI Young Scientific Programme Committee

09:00 Welcome to seminar by SIWI Scientific Programme Committee
Phil Graham, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute

09:05 Welcome to session 1 by moderator
Themba Gumbo, Cap-Net United Nations Development Programme

09.10 Keynote speaker on SDG 6.6
Chris Dickens, IWMI

09:25 Changing water management practice in Canterbury to address sustainability limits
Bryan Jenkins, Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand

09:35 Floods for Food: Water Spreading Wiers turning the tide
Christian Dohse, GIZ

09:45 Industry in action: case studies of ecosystem-based water management
Christina Copeland, CDP

09:55 Q&A

10:25 Conclusions of session 1 by moderator
Themba Gumbo, Cap-Net United Nations Development Programme

10:30 End of session 1


This seminar addressed how the practice of 'ecosystem-based water management' can achieve more sustainable outcomes on the ground when we bridge the knowledge, governance and communication gaps that exist between the people developing innovative tools, the policy-makers designing legal frameworks and the practitioners implementing activities on the ground.

Specifically, the seminar:

  • Provided an overview of best practice in ecosystem-based water management, with reference to case studies in Ethiopia, the U.K., South Africa and New Zealand, and made the stark observation that the ecosystems-based approach is currently absent from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Identified novel tools (e.g. for policy support, data management and capacity building) that have ecosystem-based water management at their heart and discussed pathways and barriers to their uptake by policy-makers and practitioners.
  • Explored the types of policies that allow for, incentivize, or require ecosystem-based water management as a way to scale up application of this approach at a local, national and global level.

Take-home messages:

  1. "Innovative tools + effective laws = better ecosystems-based water management".
  2. "Keeping ecosystems alive keeps people alive” is an effective message to communicate to all stakeholders to keep them engaged.
  3. Genuine stakeholder participation is critical at multiple levels - participation in governance processes, in the development of tools and in implementing programs.
  4. It is an inherently risky undertaking to develop and test new tools and to implement new governance systems and policy instruments. Someone has to be willing to be a strong leader, get out in front and take a risk. It takes time, effort, resources, and strong leadership  to drive real change.

Please see full conclusions attached in the resources section.