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Preview: WWF - Conservation news: Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands

WWF - Conservation news: Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands

News, publications and job feeds from WWF - the global conservation organization


Dam removals gather pace but new hydropower projects threaten migratory fish across the world

2018-04-18Wed, 18 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0000

Dam removals from South Africa to Switzerland are signalling a transformation in many countries' approach to rivers – and hope for the world's migratory fish on World Fish Migration Day today. However, an unprecedented number of planned hydropower projects in rivers, from Asia to the Amazon, continue to threaten the future of thousands of migratory fish species and the tens of millions of people who depend on them. Among the more than 500 events in 60 countries marking World Fish Migration Day, Switzerland is celebrating its first major dam removal today with the clearance of a 50-metre barrier at the confluence of the Sihl and Schanzengraben rivers in the centre of Zurich. Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Kanniedood dam in South Africa's world famous Kruger National Park has also just been demolished and the biggest dam removal in Europe so far is underway in Spain. These are the latest in an ever-growing list of obsolete dams to be taken down in recent years in countries across the globe, including Australia, Japan, Finland, France, Spain and the USA, which alone has removed 1,400 dams to date. "The taboo on the removal of old, obsolete dams has gone in many countries, bringing with it real hope for migratory fish like salmon, catfish, eel and sturgeon," said Arjan Berkhuysen, managing director at the World Fish Migration Foundation. "More and more communities are realizing that dams are not forever and that freeing up rivers will benefit people and nature." There are around 15,000 freshwater fish species that migrate during their life cycle, with around 1,100 of them migrating huge distances. The Goliath catfish travels 8,000 km through the Amazon basin, while the European eel migrates over 10,000 km between Europe's rivers and the Sargasso Sea. The largest migration in the world occurs in the Mekong, where billions of fish move between Tonle Sap and the main Mekong river. All of these fish depend on healthy flowing rivers and, in turn, tens of millions of people depend on them as their primary source of protein. However, many of these species – including some of the world's biggest freshwater fish such as the Mekong Giant Catfish and the Beluga Sturgeon – are threatened by existing dams as well as the 3,500 hydropower dams currently on the drawing board in Asia, Africa and South America. Another 2,500 are planned for the pristine rivers of the Balkans in Eastern Europe. "With the cost of renewable solar and wind energy plunging, the world needs to look beyond building new hydropower dams, which will block fish migration routes and devastate fish stocks, undermining food security and sustainable economic opportunities for countless communities across the world," said Stuart Orr, Leader, WWF Freshwater Practice. "The growing global dam removal movement shows that countries are starting to value rivers for more than just the water and power they supply. World Fish Migration Day highlights one of the many undervalued benefits of free flowing rivers: the survival of the world's remarkable diversity of migratory fish." Along with increasing calls to restore rivers by removing obsolete dams and other redundant barriers, there is also growing opposition to many new hydropower projects from communities and conservationists, who are concerned about the collapse in fish stocks as well as other negative impacts of poorly-planned dams. People are calling for many projects, such as planned dams on the Mekong and in the headwaters of the Amazon, to be axed in favour of less destructive ways of producing the extra energy that countries need. "Originally, our disruption of river waters and fishes lives was through ignorance, but we no longer have that excuse," said Jeremy Wade, host of the River Monsters TV series on Animal Planet. "For the sake of our fish, and our rivers, and ultimately ourselves, it's time to help the fish swim free." A new book released on World Fish Migration Day will provide a practical guide to tackling the threat of dams and promoting the[...]

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Rescue plan for sturgeon launched on World Fish Migration Day

2018-04-18Wed, 18 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0000

(image) With so many of their ancient migration routes blocked by dams and other obstacles, sturgeon species are battling for survival. And a wave of new dams planned for the Balkans and Danube basin could spell doom for what is already the world's most endangered fish.

But not if WWF and the World Sturgeon Conservation Society (WSCS) can help it.

On World Fish Migration Day, the two conservation organizations launched the Vienna Declaration on Global Sturgeon Conservation – 22 recommendations to decisions makers from sturgeon scientists and conservationists to ensure the survival of these remarkable fish.

Sturgeons only live in the northern hemisphere and have been subjected to overfishing and other human-made pressures for decades, bringing them to the brink of extinction.

Dams have been one of the main factors in the collapse of the sturgeon's global population as they have cut off access to many sturgeon spawning grounds, while also making these highly prized fish more vulnerable to poaching.

Old fishermen tell stories about the impact on sturgeons of the construction of the Iron Gates dam on the Danube: about how they were confusedly swimming along the dam walls trying to find a way upstream to their historic spawning grounds near Vienna and even further upstream in Germany. The Iron Gates stopped their migrations, while fishermen with cranes hauled them out of the river in large quantities.

But those days of plenty are long gone. The few sturgeons left in the Danube can still find no way through, under or over this insurmountable barrier.

The Vienna declaration calls for countries to greatly reduce the negative impact of dams on sturgeon rivers, including by ensuring old facilities are passable both upstream and downstream with fish passages for large migratory species. Modern modeling tools allow management authorities to tailor the water and sediment discharge for each river and ecosystem, so that it benefits people and nature. Continuous monitoring must also be put in place, to make sure the measures are working and if needed, the approach is adapted accordingly.

The declaration also calls for the removal of outdated dams, which no longer are effective and do not justify a refit with a fish pass.

Along with its recommendations around dams, the Vienna Declaration also highlights a variety of other actions that decision and policy makers should immediately take to limit threats to the world's remaining wild sturgeon populations and support their natural reproduction.

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Landmark deal to conserve the world's largest wetland

2018-03-22Thu, 22 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000

(image) During a high level session at the 8th World Water Forum, representatives from Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay signed a landmark tri-national declaration for the conservation and sustainable development of the Pantanal.

Starting today, the three countries will work together to implement actions that will reduce pollution, strengthen water governance, mitigate climate change, and expand scientific knowledge on the Pantanal, while protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Covering around 175,000 km2, the Pantanal is home to over 4000 species of plants and animals and supports millions people in rural communities and distant cities. However, just 4.6% of the Pantanal is protected in conservation areas and its headwaters, in particular, are at high risk. More than 55% of the Pantanal's headwaters have already been deforested.

But the region faces other threats, including the lack of basic sanitation, low adoption of good ranching and agricultural practices, and the construction of canals for navigation.

"The Pantanal, like any natural area, knows no geopolitical bounds. Millions of people and unique biodiversity depend on the ecosystem services of this region," said Maurício Voivodic, executive director of WWF-Brazil, which warmly welcomed the signing of the declaration. "In a scenario where 55% of the Pantanal's headwaters have already been deforested, an initiative that calls for the integrated and transboundary management of water resources is fundamental for a peaceful and water secure future."

The declaration was signed by the Minister of the Environment of Brazil, Sarney Filho, the Minister of the Environment of Bolivia, Carlos René Ortuño Yañez, and the General Directorate of Protection and Conservation of Water Resources of the Secretary of the Environment of Paraguay, David Fariña.

The three countries agreed to develop and implement coordinated plans and strategies to achieve the sustainable development of the Pantanal, and guarantee the quality and quantity of water in the Paraguay River Basin.

"The Pantanal is one of the most important regions in the world in terms of services provided to humanity, and one of those regions that supplies food to the world," said Lucy Aquino, director of WWF-Paraguay. "The challenge now is to advance the implementation of this notable agreement."

The director of WWF-Bolivia, Samuel Sangueza added, "We celebrate this agreement as a decisive step in the integration of Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay in maintaining this ecosystem, which is fundamental for the welfare of more than 10 million people."

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Big boost for conservation of freshwater resources in Latin America

2018-03-21Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000

(image) At the 8th World Water Forum, five countries – Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru – officially told the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) of their intention to adapt and implement the Mexican model of water reserves along with WWF.
"Water reserves are defined as the volume of environmental flow that must be conserved in the entire basin to ensure the life of a river and its benefits for people and nature," said Eugenio Barrios, Director of Public Policy of WWF Mexico and Coordinator of the initiative.
"Water reserves are an innovative tool that mitigates water management problems by allocating water to the environment before a basin or aquifer is over-exploited, guaranteeing the continuity of the hydrological cycle and avoiding social conflicts," he added.
The National Programme of Water Reserves, under the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), includes the participation of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the support of WWF and the IDB.
"To date, the programme has agreed to reserve water for 331 watersheds, which represent nearly 50% of the country," said Dr Victor Alcocer Yamanaka, deputy technical director of CONAGUA.
Mauro Nalesso, Lead Specialist in the IDB's Water and Sanitation Division said that securing water for the environment is a fundamental component of water security in the region and will help promote cooperation.
"We are happy that these five countries are interested in water reserves and proud to be able to collaborate in scaling up this remarkable Mexican initiative," said Roberto Troya, WWF Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean.
"This initiative shows that strengthening water management is a powerful tool for conserving biodiversity. As the theme of this year's World Water Day says: the answer is in nature."

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Conservation groups partner at World Water Forum to unlock nature's solutions

2018-03-19Mon, 19 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000


During the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, WWF is joining forces with a group of environmental organisations to showcase how nature can provide cost-effective, long-term water security to communities, cities and regions throughout the world.

Along with Conservation International, IUCN, Wetlands International, The Nature Conservancy and Forest Trends, WWF is collaborating on the Nature-Based Solutions pavilion at the Forum, showcasing nature-based solutions that are improving water security – and with it food, climate, health, human displacement, and biodiversity - around the world.

Achieving water security is fundamental to sustainable economic and human development; and managing natural infrastructure for water security can support the delivery of many – if not all – of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, an estimated 1.7 billion people living in the world's largest cities depend on water flowing from source watersheds sometimes located hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers away.

Unfortunately, many lands around the world are not always managed well, leading to impaired downstream water quality and diminished flows. Deforestation, poor agricultural practices and other land uses have caused moderate to high degradation in 40 percent of the world's urban source watersheds.

Rather than restoring these degraded watersheds, solutions to our water quality and quantity challenges have typically been met with the addition of grey infrastructure—including aqueducts, reservoirs and treatment plants—to move and treat water for human and industrial purposes.

The Nature-Based Solutions pavilion will host workshops, training sessions and talks from global experts to share experience, tools and successful models of the power of natural in.

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Journey of Water in the Panatanl

2018-03-05Mon, 05 Mar 2018 00:00:00 +0000

Brazil's water sources need to be protected, restored and valued for the good of the country, its people and its nature. This is the key message of the 2018 Journey of Water from March 5th-9th along the Paraguay River in the Pantanal – the world's largest wetland, which faces serious threats.Launched in South Africa in 2013, the Journey of Water aims to raise awareness about the long and winding route water takes from source to tap – and the many threats that water sources and rivers now face.For the Brazilian edition, a group of celebrities, conservationists, journalists and a famous cartoon character will follow a stretch of the Paraguay River on foot, on water and by car, travelling through one of Brazil's most majestic landscapes. The group will meet with local communities, authorities and experts as they learn about the problems threatening the Pantanal and its waters, and the importance of this resource for animals and plants as well as for millions of people downstream and for sustainable development in the region.WWF Brazil wants to alert people to the fact that water does not simply "spring" from their taps, but comes from our rivers and that human activity can severely affect the quality and quantity of the water that is available to us, and for this reason it is vital that we conserve it.Known as the "Kingdom of Waters", the Pantanal spans 171,000 km2 in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. During the rainy season from April to September, 80 percent of the region is flooded as 180 million litres of water per day flow down from the Pantanal's headwaters in the tableland region of the Upper Paraguay River Basin.This annual cycle support an extraordinary diversity of plants and animals, with over 4,000 species in total, including 656 types of tree, 325 species of fish, 159 mammals, 98 reptiles and 53 amphibians. The Pantanal also directly influences the climatic balance and air humidity, and conserves the region's biodiversity and soil. And supports cowboys, rural communities and cities downstream.But the Pantanal is under threat, principally from the expansion of soy, sugarcane and timber plantations, soil erosion and the construction of poorly planned infrastructure, including dams and navigation channels. Cattle raising, which was traditionally sustainable in the region, is now extensive and causing widespread damage to this sensitive ecosystem.As a result, 38 percent of the Upper Paraguay River Basin has already been transformed, and if a protection plan is not put in place or new protected areas are not created, the Pantanal could suffer irreparable damage in the coming years – threatening the nature and people who rely on it.A study carried out in 2017 by WWF-Brazil revealed that just 55 percent of the Pantanal's headwaters region is preserved. Coupled with the fact that only 3.19 percent of the Pantanal as a whole is protected, it shows how vulnerable the area is and how urgently new conservation areas must be established.WWF has carried out joint conservation actions in Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia with the intention of reducing the impact of human activity by promoting the protection of aquatic ecosystems, the development of best productive practices, systematic land use planning and the responsible consumption habits.WWF also helps to conserve springs and rivers through its Pantanal Headwaters Pact, which is an alliance between the public and private sectors and civil society. With the support of partners, including HSBC, the Pact has already achieved significant results, including restoring over 80 springs, developing over 160km of environmentally sensitive rural roads, implementing water conservation activities with the support of 25 municipal governments in the state of Mato Grosso, and mobilising hundreds of volunteers.But much more needs to be done.In particular, the long-delayed Pantanal Law that is currently being debated by the Brazilian Senate's Env[...]

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Living European Rivers

2018-02-26Mon, 26 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000

Rivers are the lifeblood of Europe. They provide us with water, food, transport, and power, supporting the economies of rural communities and major cities across the continent. They also provide us with many of our fondest memories as well as wonderful spots to fish, birdwatch, swim and sunbathe.But their beauty is often skin deep. Dip below the surface and the picture is murkier.Freshwater species are declining in many parts of Europe; fish, frogs, birds, silently slipping away. Rivers continue to be polluted with agricultural run-off and industrial chemicals. Cut off from their floodplains, many now pose a greater flood risk than ever before.Most rivers have been fragmented by dams – many of them obsolete – that block the flow of sediments and present an impenetrable barrier to migratory fish, so culturally and environmentally important species like sturgeon, salmon and eel have vanished from much of the continent.There has been some progress since the EU enacted landmark freshwater regulations in 2000 but the majority of the continent's rivers and lakes are far from healthy. And the threats are not diminishing, particularly with hundreds of new dams planned across the continent, especially in the Danube basin and the Balkans. There are even moves afoot to try and water down the laws.So WWF is launching a continent-wide initiative to bring life back to Europe's rivers.And there is real hope: the potential for river recovery is amazing! Remove a dam, push back a dyke, reconnect a floodplain and shortly salmon and other wildlife will return, riverine vegetation will flourish and people will start benefiting.Supported by the EU's landmark water management law – the Water Framework Directive – this new approach aims to achieve major conservation impact through a paradigm shift by changing people's perception of the value of rivers for humans and wildlife; redirecting financial flows into green water infrastructure and more sustainable water projects; and demonstrating that nature based solutions are critical to mitigating flooding, adapting to climate change and improving the status of Europe's rivers, lakes and wetlands and its freshwater biodiversity.Together with partners, WWF will :Protect the last European free-flowing rivers. Especially in the Balkans and Easter Europe, but also in Spain, France, Italy and Finland where spectacular free-flowing rivers are not sufficiently protected. We will map these unique free-flowing rivers on a European map and advocate for their protection, including by working with the communities along these rivers. Restore degraded rivers through dam removals. There are opportunities to remove some of the thousands of obsolete dams throughout Europe, which can reconnect rivers and kick-start effective restoration. John Waldman, a professor of biology at Queens College in New York, wrote an influential paper in 2015 arguing that "no other action can bring ecological integrity back to rivers as effectively as dam removals" and this has been demonstrated in the US, but also increasingly in Europe, particularly in countries such as France, Spain and Finland. Dam removal is especially relevant for small and medium size rivers. Embark on large river restoration programmes. WWF envisages a long term programme to give major rivers (such as the Danube, Rhine, Elbe) more space by reconnecting and enlarging floodplains and restoring nature in these floodplains. Defend the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This landmark piece of law revolves around a key idea – we must conserve our freshwater ecosystems if we want to have sufficient amount of water of sufficient quality in the future. It provides a legal basis and a framework for water ecosystem protection and restoration in Europe. While it has been praised for helping to reverse the trend of ecological decline of rivers, there is a high risk t[...]

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Shoveling Snow to Save world's most endangered seal

2018-02-13Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000

(image) Winters have become warmer in Finland due to climate change, which makes nesting more difficult for the extremely endangered Saimaa ringed seal. WWF Finland is helping by building snow banks on Lake Saimaa's ice for the seals to give birth.

The Saimaa ringed seal gives birth in a cave-like nest that it builds inside a snow bank on top of the lake's ice. This year, just like other recent years, there has not been enough snow for the seals to build their nests.

"If the seals have to give birth on bare ice, the pups have no shelter against predators, the cold and other disturbances," said Liisa Rohweder, CEO of WWF Finland "up to half of them could die."

WWF Finland is helping by piling up snow on Lake Saimaa's ice to form man-made snow banks for the seals to give birth. The operation is coordinated by Metsähallitus (Parks & Wildlife Finland) and a large group of volunteers take part in it. Last year the seals gave birth to 81 pups and 90 percent of them were born in man-made snow banks.

This year the situation is even more dire and the need for man-made snow banks is evident, as the winter has been extremely warm and the ice formed late on Lake Saimaa leaving less time for the snow to accumulate on top of it. Altogether around 280 snow banks were made.

"Although building snow banks is hard work, everyone involved from volunteers to authorities and WWF staff, is highly motivated as making these snow banks is a prime example of concrete and productive nature conservation," Rohweder added.

The first snow banks built for seals were innovated and tested as a part of a research project funded by WWF Finland and carried out by scientists at the University of Eastern Finland.

 "It's great we can help an endangered species like this, but at some point we have to have a viable long-term plan. This includes taking quick action on climate change," said Rohweder

The Saimaa ringed seal is one of the rarest seals in the world and can only be found in Lake Saimaa. WWF Finland has worked in many ways to protect the Saimaa ringed seal since 1979 and thanks to these efforts, the population previously facing extinction has been preserved and even increased. These days, the population is estimated to be around 380 individuals

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Two new wetland protected areas created in Morocco

2018-02-06Tue, 06 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000

(image) To mark World Wetlands Day, the Moroccan Water and Forest department (HCEFLCD) officially announced the designation of two new wetland protected areas, Merja de Fouwarat and Sebkhat Imlili, which will now receive international protection under the Ramsar Convention.
Merja de Fouwarate is a shallow swamp, which is believed to be a remnant of a large wetland complex that once covered the Gharb plain of northwestern Morocco. It is located at the northeastern limit of the town of Kenitra, at the outlet of the Fouwarate river, which is a tributary of the Sebou river.
Sebkhat Imlili is a relic of an old Saharan aquatic system, which bears witness to the time when the extreme south of Morocco was tropical. The sebkha (salt flat) is in an area of limited and irregular rainfall over ten kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean.
This Ramsar classification is the result of collaboration between WWF North Africa, HCEFLCD and experts from GREPOM and the Scientific Institute of Rabat. In February 2017, WWF North Africa and HCEFLCD signed a MoU to support the designation of 15 new Rasmar site during 2018.
"WWF congratulates Morocco on the designation of two new Ramsar sites Merja de Fouwarate and Sebkhat Imlili and on the commitment of the HCEFLCD to designate 30 new Ramsar sites in the frame of the National Wetland strategy by 2024," said Faouzi Maamouri, Directeur of WWF North Africa.
During the celebration, WWF North Africa signed a new MoU with the HCEFLCD for the design and implementation of projects and initiatives in the field of conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity in Morocco.

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WWF - Svetový fond na ochranu prírody varuje: Plánované projekty vodných elektrární môžu poškodiť prírodu a životné podmienky miestnych komunít

2018-02-02Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:00:00 +0000

Viedeň, Bratislava – Pri príležitosti  Svetového dňa mokradí - 2. februára - WWF varuje, že mnohé projekty vodných elektrární plánované v krajinách dunajského regiónu môžu vážne poškodiť biotopy vzácnych a ohrozených druhov. Za posledných 150 rokov sme v povodí Dunaja stratili približne 80 % mokradí a tým sme prišli o dôležité služby, ktoré nám príroda poskytuje. WWF považuje za dôležité, aby energetické riešenia zohľadňovali aj vplyvy na životné prostredie a ľudí.  Prínos mokradí je obrovský. Okrem veľmi bohatej biodiverzity zmierňujú negatívne vplyvy zmeny klímy a chránia milióny ľudí pred záplavami. Zároveň dokážu čistiť vodu, poskytujú potravu, drevo, biomasu a miesto pre rekreáciu a príležitosti pre rozvoj miestnych služieb.   V povodí rieky Dunaj sa nachádzajú celosvetovo významné mokrade vrátane druhovo bohatej delty Dunaja a biosférickej rezervácie Mura-Dráva-Dunaj. Výstavba malých vodných elektrární však ohrozuje rieky vo viacerých krajinách strednej a východnej Európy, kde miestne komunity a mimovládne organizácie vyvíjajú nemalé úsilie, aby ich zachránili.  Na rieke Dráva v Chorvátsku sa plánujú dve veľké vodné elektrárne Molve 1 a Molve 2. Ich výstavba by priamo zasiahla až 30 km dlhý úsek rieky. Dráva je súčasťou európskej sústavy Natura 2000 a zároveň cezhraničnou biosférickou rezerváciou UNESCO. Avšak od prameňa v Taliansku je pod tlakom až 22 vodných elektrární. WWF a ďalšie organizácie zoskupené do koalície "Drava League" vyzvali chorvátsku vládu, aby opätovne zvážila svoje rozhodnutie, nakoľko výstavba by ohrozila najhodnotnejší úsek rieky. V decembri odvolací súd v Bukurešti zrušil povolenia na výstavbu série vodných elektrární, ktoré by zničili rieku Jiu v srdci národného parku Jiu Gorge. Projekt trval 12 rokov a žiadna rumunská autorita nebola dostatočne silná, aby ho zastavila. Prípad sa vrátil do verejnej diskusie v roku 2017 po tom, čo viac ako 30.000 ľudí podpísalo petíciu na zastavenie prác. Napriek tomu je budúcnosť projektu stále nejasná. Slovensko nie je výnimkou. Nedávno WWF Slovensko kritizoval nedostatočný proces posudzovania vplyvov na životné prostredie v prípade malej vodnej elektrárne Hronský Beňadik a podporil podanie súdnej žaloby. „Výstavba elektrárne môže negatívne ovplyvniť populácie prúdomilných rýb v oblasti Stredný tok Hrona, ktorá bola nedávno zaradená do sústavy Natura 2000, pretože by sa úplne zmenil charakter vodného prostredia z tečúcej vody na stojatú. Elektráreň tiež vytvorí bariéru brániacu migrácii rýb. Opomenutie zhodnotenia týchto vplyvov na chránené druhy územia európskeho významu je samo o sebe porušením európs[...]

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International protection for major dolphin sanctuary in northern Amazon

2018-01-23Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000

In a major boost for conservation in the northern Amazon, the Tarapoto Lakes complex in Colombia has just been designated as a Wetland Protected Area (WPA) under the global Ramsar Convention.International recognition of this extraordinary area, which shelters one of the highest concentrations of river dolphins and supports many other species and indigenous communities, is the result of more than ten years of joint work between WWF-Colombia, the Omacha Foundation and the Ministry of Environment.  Colombia's President, Juan Manuel Santos, announced the designation saying "this recognition promotes international cooperation for biodiversity conservation projects and contributes to the protection of this specific ecosystem." "Our goal is to declare at least five more of these ecosystems as Ramsar sites and to leave, at the end of this administration, 30 million hectares in protected áreas - equivalent to the size of the whole United Kingdom," added President Santos. The Tarapoto Lake system covers 40,000 hectares, creating an ecosystem with incredible levels of biodiversity, including more than 883 plant species, 244 bird species, 176 fish species, 30 reptile species, 201 mammal species and 57 amphibian species.  "This is an important achievement for the conservation of strategic freshwater ecosystems globally," said Mary Lou Higgins, Director, WWF-Colombia. "It is also an opportunity to ensure critical habitat for priority species, such as the Amazon river dolphins." As Fernando Trujillo, Omacha Foundation Director, explains, Tarapoto functions as a "nursery" for the dolphins to rear their offspring. It is also a key habitat for threatened species like pirarucú, manatee, black caiman, and the jaguar. And a breeding site for fish supporting the livelihoods of the indigenous communities that inhabit the area. However, this natural treasure faces potential threats from overfishing, timber extraction, poaching and uncontrolled tourism. This Ramsar designation creates a huge opportunity to reduce these threats through better territorial planning with local communities. Unlike many other Ramsar locations, Tarapoto Lakes lies within an indigenous reserve. The 22 indigenous communities living there have relied on fish as a vital source of food for generations and, more recently, have built economic ties to other activities like tourism. Puerto Nariño, where one can easily spot river dolphins, is one of the most visited nature tourism destinations in the Colombian Amazon. While tourism generates income for the area's economy, overfishing and unfettered tourism threaten to alter the balance of this natural treasure. The Ramsar designation seeks to provide more alternatives for local communities and to consolidate the fisheries management process that WWF has been supporting alongside local fishermen to ensure responsible use of fish stocks. One of the great advantages of a Ramsar designation is the potential to increase international cooperation to fund conservation projects that are well aligned with the needs of the community. This designation was supported by the Ticuna, Yagua and Cocama indigenous communities. "The designation of the Tarapoto Lakes as a Ramsar site is an opportunity to strengthen, protect, and conserve our natural, cultural, and social resources, keeping in mind that this process opens doors to project funding," said Lilia Java, an indigenous leader in the area. [...]

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Developing Better Dams

2017-12-14Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000

Dams provide significant benefits to people but they are also a primary cause of the loss and degradation of river ecosystems and the services these ecosystems provide to society. Recognising this, several tools and approaches have emerged over the last two decades to promote better dams – i.e. dams that have fewer impacts and deliver greater benefits to society. This primer reviews these new tools and approaches, as well as some of the factors responsible for bad dams, and it offers a pragmatic way forwards. It is intended to prompt dialogue and guide engagement with decision-makers.While the context and environmental conditions for dams vary considerably around the world, there are a number of concepts that underpin an effective approach to planning, developing, renovating and operating dams. 1. Construction of new dams is not always the optimal solution to meet development needs. Dam planning should be part of strategic planning for economic and social needs (such as energy, food, and flood and drought protection). Alternatives such as demand management, green infrastructure, and importing and trading energy or food can reduce the need to build new dams. Depending on context, these alternatives can be less controversial and disruptive and can provide a blend of strategic, economic, social and environmental benefits at lower costs. Governments should consider all possible options to meet societal needs.2. System-scale planning of dams helps produce a greater and broader range of benefits to society. System-scale planning considers the cumulative impacts and benefits of multiple potential infrastructure portfolios 1 against a range of social, environmental and economic objectives. Identifying the best dam locations for the optimised delivery of multiple benefits and minimisation of adverse impacts is at the core of system-scale planning. System-scale planning of dams and other water infrastructure must take place within the context of river basin/landscape planning, which takes into account water and land use, and which is informed by strategic economic planning.3. In a rapidly changing world, dams must be adaptable to be effective over the long-term. Dams must be planned, designed, operated and monitored to allow for adaptive management in response to climate change and resulting hydrological extremes, and shifting societal preferences. Planning must take account of a number of different climate and societal scenarios, and upfront capital investment is needed to build in design features that allow for flexible operation.4. Provision of environmental flows and maintenance of fluvial connectivity should be prioritised to safeguard aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem services to downstream communities. Dam developers should undertake an environmental flow needs assessment as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and dam features and operation rules should be designed to enable these needs to be met. Dams should be sited and designed to maximise fluvial connectivity within river systems.5. Planning processes are most effective when they involve meaningful participation of representatives of different economic sectors, interest groups and affected communities in order to balance the benefits and costs of dams. Participation is required throughout the whole planning, construction and operational lifespan of dam projects. A key component is sharing of knowledge and perspectives about how dams affect local communities, indigenous peoples, ecosystem services and biodiversity. Local perspectives and needs must be balanced with basin, national and transboundary perspectives and needs.6. Governance reform will often be required if dams are to effectively balance a range of societal interests. Strong institutional[...]

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Signs of hope as population of endangered Indus River dolphin jumps in Pakistan

2017-12-12Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000


Despite severe threats to Indus River dolphins throughout their remaining range, results from a comprehensive WWF survey released today show a dramatic increase in the population of the endangered species – thanks largely to successful, community-based conservation efforts.
Following the month-long survey, there are now estimated to be 1,816 Indus River dolphins in Pakistan – 50 per cent more than the 1,200 dolphins estimated after WWF's first census in 2001, when the species appeared to be heading for extinction.
"Significantly increasing the number of Indus River dolphins over the past 15 years is a remarkable achievement considering the ever-increasing pressure on the river and the species, and shows that progress is possible when governments, conservationist and communities work together," said Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan.
"While celebrating this national success, we must not forget that there are still less than 2,000 Indus River dolphins in the world and we need to redouble our efforts to tackle all the threats to their survival and ensure their numbers continue to rise," added Khan.
Also known as the blind dolphin, the Indus River dolphin is listed as endangered in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species with all the remaining dolphins in Pakistan except for a tiny isolated population of around 30 in India's Beas River.
Currently confined to just 20 per cent of their natural habitat range due to the construction of numerous dams and barrages along the Indus River, the dolphins are also threatened by worsening water pollution, stranding in irrigation canals and accidentally becoming caught in fishing nets.
Faced with all these threats, WWF has spearheaded an innovative and collaborative approach to save the species, integrating research, effective law enforcement, and, critically, community engagement. Since 1992, WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department have led a dolphin rescue programme, which has successfully saved 131 dolphins from being stranded in irrigation canals and safely released them back into the river. A dolphin monitoring network in collaboration with local communities and a 24-hour phone helpline have also been established.
"Indus River dolphin numbers would still be decreasing if it were not for the active participation of communities along the river: they are our eyes and ears and have helped to brink these iconic animals back from the brink," said Khan. "Our efforts to save the dolphin are also critical for these communities since the species is an indicator of the health of the river, upon which tens of millions of people depend."
Led by WWF, the survey took place from 20 March to 13 April 2017 during low water season when the dolphins are most concentrated and easiest to count. A team of 20 scientists and researchers from WWF-Pakistan, Zoological Survey of Pakistan, and provincial wildlife departments travelled in four boats covering the Indus River dolphin range from the Chashma to Sukkur barrages. Data was recorded by four observers watching from viewing platforms on two boats that travelled downstream in tandem

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First ever tagging of Amazon dolphins to boost conservation efforts

2017-12-05Tue, 05 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000

(image) For the first time ever, WWF and research partners  are now tracking river dolphins in the Amazon using satellite technology after scientists successfully tagged dolphins in Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia, attaching small transmitters that will provide new insights into the animals' movements and behaviour and the growing threats they face.

As of today, 11 dolphins, including both Amazonian and Bolivian river dolphins – two of the four species of freshwater dolphin found in the world's largest river system – have safely been tagged and researchers are already studying the incoming data.

Despite their iconic status, little is known about the populations, habits or key habitats of river dolphins in the Amazon. While there are estimated to be tens of thousands of river dolphins, the species are currently listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The tags will enable WWF and its partners to study where the dolphins go, where they feed, and how far they migrate.

"Satellite tracking will help us better understand the lives of this iconic Amazonian species more than ever before, helping to transform our approach to protecting them and the entire ecosystem," said Marcelo Oliveira, WWF Conservation Specialist, who led the expedition in Brazil. "Tagging these dolphins is the start of a new era for our work because we will finally be able to map where they go when they disappear from sight."

The tracking data will also guide efforts to tackle some of the major threats facing river dolphins, including hundreds of planned dams that would fragment many of the Amazon's remaining free flowing rivers, worsening mercury contamination from small-scale gold mining, and illegal fishing.

"We who live in the Amazon know that our environment is facing growing and unprecedented threats and that our future is linked to the future of dolphins," said Fernando Trujillo from Fundación Omacha, a Colombian research partner.

"This tagging project is critical because it will generate information that will enable governments across the region to target resources to protect dolphins and their habitats, which so many other species and communities also depend on," added Trujillo.
The capture and tagging of the dolphins followed a rigid protocol that prioritises the welfare of the animals. Having been caught in nets by teams of specialists, the dolphins were taken to shore for tagging in an operation lasting 15 minutes on average, before being released back into the water. None of the dolphins were injured during the operation and none displayed any ill effects after release.
Along with installing the transmitters, the scientists also took samples from the animals, which they will analyse for mercury levels and general health.

WWF and its partners will assess this historic tagging operation over the coming months and will look to scale it up and tag more dolphins if the technology continues to prove successful. The initiative is the latest step in WWF's long-term efforts to conserve river dolphins across the Amazon.
In addition to scientific research, WWF will continue to work with communities, advocate with authorities and promote the creation of new protected areas.

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New protected area in Congo basin is bigger than Switzerland

2017-11-22Wed, 22 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000

(image) The creation today of one of the world's largest wetland protected areas (WPA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo will help to conserve a critically important part of the Congo basin, providing greater protection for its rich biodiversity and securing vital water supplies for many communities.

Measuring almost 4.5 million hectares – an area larger than Switzerland – the Lufira Basin in southerastern DRC has been designated a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar convention. Covering a network of rivers, lakes, floodplains and swamp forests as well as four national protected areas, the massive new WPA is home to a wealth of wildlife, including many endemic fish, bird and reptile species and the rare Upemba lechwe.

The area also boasts some spectacular waterfalls including the 384-metre high Lofoï, which is the highest waterfall in Africa and the second highest in the world.

"WWF is delighted that this extraordinary wetland has been recognised as an area of international importance and will now be protected under Ramsar," said Bruno Perodeau, WWF DRC's Conservation Director. "Strengthening the protection of the Lufira Basin is a significant step towards effective conservation of this area and the long term welfare of communities that depend on this wetland and the unique wildlife that lives there."

It is symbolic that the creation of one the top 15 WPAs on earth comes just after the Climate Conference in Bonn given the increasing awareness about the role that healthy wetlands can play in climate change adaptation and mitigation. Along with helping to maintain water supplies and minimise the impact of extreme floods, some wetlands also act as important carbon sinks.

The new Ramsar site is the fourth in the DRC, bringing its total wetland area under protection to almost 12 million hectares.

"The Congo Basin is a global conservation priority and its future is dependent on the health of its countless rivers and other wetlands," said Perodeau. "WWF will continue working with the government and communities to improve the management of these areas especially in the light of growing global climate threats. Effective management will help to maintain the ecosystem services that the site already provides, and ensure that it remains resilient in the face of unpredictable environmental changes."

With the announcement of the Lufira Basin site, WWF has now supported the protection of over 105 million hectares of wetlands around the world under Ramsar in the past twenty years.

The designation of the new Ramsar site was supported by USAID along with German assistance.

The news also follows the designation in June of the largest transnational Ramsar site, Lac Télé Lac Tumba, which unified neighbouring wetland protected areas in DRC and the Republic of Congo. This unified site is home to the largest tropical peat bog in the world, which stores up to 30 billion tonnes of carbon, highlighting its important role in the fight against climate change

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River revolution in Europe as France launches largest dam removal project on the continent

2017-11-21Tue, 21 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000

(image) With thousands of proposed dams threatening Europe's few remaining free flowing rivers, France's decision to remove two large dams could signal the start of a new era on the continent – with countries focussing on reviving their rivers and on large scale dam destruction rather than construction.
Eight years after the idea was initially discussed, the French government agreed last week to remove the 35 metre-high Vezins and 15 metre-high 'La Roche qui boit' dams from the Selune river in Normandy in 2018.
With France leading the way, countries from Spain to Finland have taken down many small and obsolete dams in recent years, but freeing up the Selune represents the largest dam removal project so far in Europe – and a major step towards bringing life back to the river, including wild salmon and eel whose migrations have been blocked by the dams for decades.
"The dismantling of these ancient dams after almost 100 years of hydropower generation is a landmark in Europe's attitudes to its rivers and energy production," said Roberto Epple, Founder President of the European Rivers Network (ERN). "Removing these obstacles will help rewild the entire 90 kms of the Sélune, allowing fish to migrate and sediment to flow and rapidly boosting the river's biodiversity."
Fragmenting rivers with dams, barrages and other infrastructure has played a major role in the catastrophic loss of fish and other freshwater species across the continent. Removing these concrete obstacles will help to reverse this trend and provide other benefits to communities along Europe's riverbanks, including income from the anglers who will follow the fish back to the rivers.
Indeed, fishing associations have long worked with French environmentalists to bring down the two Selune dams as part of the 'Friends of the Selune' coalition (see the attachment for a list of members).
"Choosing to remove these dams will help to revolutionise Europe's approach to rivers: instead of erecting new dams, it is time to start dismantling dams and bringing life back to our rivers," said Bart Geenen, Head of Freshwater, WWF-Netherlands. "Studies clearly show that dam removal is by far the most cost-effective way to restore rivers. Living rivers will boost biodiversity and provide new and exciting opportunities for local people."
The project is aligned with France's commitment to the conservation of its remaining wild salmon and eel populations and with the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive.
"Signalling the end of the road for these dams is cause for celebration, but we still need a clear and binding timetable from the government," said Epple, who is also one of the driving forces behind Dam Removal Europe. "The authorities must also involve local communities in plans to develop sustainable tourism in the valley.

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Brazil high resolution data is latest upgrade to Water Risk Filter

2017-11-20Mon, 20 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000

(image) People often associate water risk with dry places facing water scarcity, but dry and water risk are not synonymous, writes Alexis Morgan, WWF Water Stewardship Lead, who is attending this week's launch of the high resolution data set for Brazil in Sao Paulo.

Indeed, too much water (i.e., flooding) represents perhaps one of the greatest water risks that faces companies and investors. For countries that face both flooding and droughts, an awareness of water risk is particularly important.

This week marks another step forward in the journey of the Water Risk Filter. Working with local Brazilian data, we have developed the world's first high resolution water risk mapping tool. Launched this week in Sao Paulo, the tool will allow uses to explore water risk at not only a fine spatial scale (local catchment level), but also draw upon more up-to-date local data that is better calibrated than global models.

The Brazilian data set adds to existing high resolution data for the UK and South Africa, with new data soon coming for the Lower Mekong countries, Colombia and Spain.

The release of this new data will provide Brazilian companies, investors, and other potential users with an unparalleled understanding of water risk across the entire country. Whether one is concerned about manufacturing facilities facing drought in the northeast, or floods affecting crops in the southwest, the tool will help users understand where basin water risks are most acute.

In the coming months, this data will be combined with the upgraded version of the Water Risk Filter to allow users not only to explore water risk maps for Brazil, but also to easily develop portfolio assessments using either global or local, high-resolution Brazilian data sets. Users can then discover how these risks can affect financial statements before unpacking customized responses to mitigate risks posed by shared water challenges.

The existing tool has been widely used in Brazil with 1900 facilities assessed across the country, with beverage producers, pulp & paper, and agricultural plant products (primarily coffee) leading the way.

In early 2018 when the upgraded tool is fully operational, WWF will begin a broader campaign to engage priority sectors, companies and regions with a view to mobilizing water stewardship at a broader scale.

Water is a global challenge, but water risks need to be understood in a local context. The Water Risk Filter now offers users in Brazil the opportunity to do just that. Isn't it time you knew your local water risk?

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Linking water context and water stewardship: A natural fit

2017-11-12Sun, 12 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000

At the beginning of November, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) hosted its second Global Water Stewardship Forum in Edinburgh: a two-day event that brought together over 100 of the world's leading thinkers on water stewardship to discuss an array of topics, including context-based water targets, writes Alexis Morgan, WWF Water Stewardship Lead.This week, Sustainable Brands will host its latest version of New Metrics, which brings together some of the world's leading thinkers on sustainability metrics. Context-based water targets will be on the agenda there as well.It's not entirely surprising that these topics are now in vogue, considering the fact that water is consistently recognized by businesses and investors as one of their most material risks and the growing recognition that we are eclipsing planetary thresholds. Furthermore, the two concepts are intertwined.Context (or the local nature of issues) is inherent when talking about water. The AWS Standard is explicit about the need to understand context and shared water challenges and then set targets. Where it is silent is around performance thresholds. The challenge of setting such performance thresholds, however, is that they vary by sector and geography.To reconcile water stewardship and context-based water targets that are driven by local thresholds will require local data (or regional models at least). Conversely, AWS and water stewardship activities often gather such local data, so there begins to be a virtuous cycle. Furthermore, water stewardship and context-based water targets are also explicitly aimed to serve policy needs, giving water governance a much-needed boost.As AWS refines its standard, it has a unique opportunity to help advance this link between water stewardship and threshold-based performance target setting.It is our belief at WWF that such efforts, no matter how difficult, must be explored. Indeed many people said that an international water stewardship standard could not be done (but it was, back in 2014). Others said that nobody would use such a standard (but there are now over 50 sites certified or registered to certify, with hundreds more applying the standard). So what some see as impossible, others simply see as the next frontier.WWF, like its partners CDP, The Nature Conservancy, CEO Water Mandate, UNEP-DHI, and World Resources Institute, has committed to advancing both water stewardship and context-based water targets forward. Not only will we continue to develop the concept, and popularize it, but more importantly, we're learning by doing.We've already started to test different, practical and applied approaches with large retailers like Edeka and their supply chains. We are working with major fashion brands, like H&M, to integrate the concept into how they think about performance. We're pushing the envelope and staffing up with leading thinkers, and joining forces with those, like the Center for Sustainability, who have been trying to push this agenda for some time.Like all innovation, developing both of these concepts comes with risk. We will "fail". But "failure" is simply a synonym for learning. So, we will learn, adapt, refine and develop something that can work.For those out there – be it companies, government agencies or our fellow non-governmental agencies, we encourage you to join us on our learning journey. We must establish more meaningful water targets that can help to help to achieve the SDGs. We must work together.[...]

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Upgraded Water Risk Filter can help transform business response to water risk

2017-11-08Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000

Over the past five years, WWF's innovative Water Risk Filter has developed into a leading and trusted tool to help companies across the world assess their water risk. More than 200,000 sites have already been assessed by over 3000 users. But now it's time for a change. Indeed, some big changes.Co-developed by WWF and KfW-DEG (the German Development Bank), the tool will undergo by far the biggest upgrade in its history. Along with major improvements to the way it looks and feels, there will also be significant changes to the way it functions, enabling companies and investors to assess, value and respond to their water risk.So what exactly is new?The tool has many new features and functions but let's focus on a few of the key ones:A new look and interfaceAn upgraded data structure and indicatorsA new mitigation toolboxA new valuation sectionA new way of working within WWF A New Look and InterfaceThe first thing users will notice about the new tool will be the new branding. Not only will the Water Risk Filter have a new logo, but also a more compelling set of colours – from the website to the risk maps themselves. Most importantly, it will also boast a cleaner, simpler interface. The new tool will be structured around four areas: Explore, Assess, Value and Respond. While historically the Water Risk has included elements of all these, most of the focus has been on the 'Assess' section. The new version will be stronger in all four areas. Explore: 36 risk maps, 40+ other layers, 100+ country profiles and 10+ WWF river basin story maps as well as WWF water risk & stewardship reports, and details on the methodology & data. Assess: One or multiple sites using 28 basin risk indicators and an array of operational risk indicators and visualize the results with bar charts, tables, matrices and figures. Results can be saved and filtered by country, site, basin, etc. to better understand risk exposure. Additionally, results can be exported to Excel in a format consistent with CDP. Value: Potential financial impacts by exploring how water and value link together using our valuation framework to unpack principles, guidance and calculators. A new valuation tool, powered by CDP Water's data, will link the results of water risk assessments to potential financial impacts. Respond: Drawing on a user's unique sites, customized solutions will be recommended for either a specific site or portfolio of sites. These actions can be filtered by various frameworks (e.g. Sustainable Development Goals, Alliance for Water Stewardship, Ceres Aqua Gauge, etc.). Furthermore, results are hyperlinked to the CEO Water Mandate's Water Stewardship toolkit for easy access to more resources. An upgraded data structure & indicatorsOur new structure offers the most comprehensive coverage amongst risk tools across physical, regulatory and reputational water risk. We've updated the data by adding 11 new risk layers and removing 7 older ones. Climate change projection data has also been added with more to come. Another major advance is our new partnership with RepRisk, which will now inform the water conflict data layer with regularly updated information. All of these data will continue to be updated on an annual basis to ensure dynamic water risk results.A new mitigation toolboxWhile the Water Risk Filter has long had a section dedicated to mitigation actions, the new toolbox will dynamically link the water risk assessment results for any given site (or even a portfolio of sites) to customized risk responses (i.e., mitigation actions). These actions [...]

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Water Risk in Agricultural Supply Chains

2017-10-31Tue, 31 Oct 2017 00:00:00 +0000

The world's water challenges are, to a large extent the world's sustainable food production challenges. Recognizing this, many of the world's largest food, beverage and retail companies have started to engage their supply chains in an effort to mitigate their biggest water risks.Voluntary agricultural sustainability standards are one key approach that companies have employed to deliver on sustainable sourcing commitments, including addressing water concerns. However, the degree of coverage on water issues by various agricultural sustainability standards varies considerably.Indeed, traditionally, many agricultural sustainability standards have restricted water criteria to efficient use and minimizing both soil erosion and nutrient runoff. As the collective understanding of water stewardship has emerged, there has been a growing appreciation that it takes more than on-site action to adequately mitigate basin and operational water risks.This new report from WWF and Edeka, Germany's largest retailer, assessed 25 different agricultural sustainability standards and represents a follow up on a report published in 2015. The analysis shows several key conclusions:Of the four water stewardship outcomes, water quality continues to be the best covered aspect of water stewardship, followed by water balance, important water-related areas and governance; The most consistently well-covered issues are: water efficiency, effluent management and legal compliance; Conversely, participation in water governance, indirect water use assessment, collective action, climate change resilience and aquatic invasive species remain the most poorly covered issues; The ongoing lack of coverage of core concepts in water stewardship (e.g. collective action, water governance and consideration of future water risks) suggests that for most agricultural sustainability standards, there is still a lot of room for improvement; Organic standards have comparable coverage in the four water stewardship outcomes in terms of water quality, but generally have weaker coverage of water balance, water governance and important water-related areas when compared to conventional agricultural sustainability standards; and, Modest, but positive, progress has been made since 2015 in including water stewardship elements in those standards that have been updated.The overall takeaways for all audiences are: water stewardship integration begins with a deeper understanding of your context and agricultural water risks, be sure you are considering collective actions and engagement in water governance, ensure efficiency requirements are supplemented with cumulative basin impact considerations, and collaborate as much as possible.Looking ahead, we offer the following recommendations for agricultural sustainability standard systems: 1. Develop supplementary water stewardship guidance and training 2. Integrate water stewardship into standard requirements, including addressing gaps/missing elements, strengthening wording to create more robust requirements2, exploring new and progressive concepts, and complementing efficiency measures with cumulative basin impact approaches 3. Enhance standard systems collaboration, via mutual recognition, add-ons, and service provision Furthermore, for companies with significant agricultural supply chains, we offer the following recommendations: 1. Know your water risk and use credible standards, but make sure the standards you employ are fit for purpose as you seek to mitigate your water risks [...]

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