Please join Open Space Institute for a webinar to discuss lessons and opportunities for how to establish and grow a successful watershed investment program.
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About this Webinar:
Watershed investment programs are sprouting across the United States, offering promising pathways to protecting natural areas and securing clean drinking water. But what does it take to establish and grow a successful watershed investment program?
Geared for conservation practitioners and investors alike, this webinar will review guidance and ideas on how to build a successful watershed investment program, based on the experiences of several programs from across the United States. Todd Gartner (World Resources Institute) will kick off by reviewing 10 success factors for watershed investment programs, which were recently distilled through a comparative study of 13 watershed investment programs in the United States. Next, diving into the case of Portland, Maine’s watershed investment program, Paul Hunt (Portland Water District) will discuss how the municipal water utility’s Watershed Land Conservation Program came to fruition, highlighting their strategy and issues on the horizon. Finally, Michael Curley (Environmental Law Institute) will highlight opportunities to utilize the State Revolving Fund, a powerful public environmental finance program that can support watershed investment programs.
- Todd Gartner, Senior Associate and Manager, Natural Infrastructure for Water, World Resources Institute
- Paul Hunt, Environmental Manager, Portland Water District
- Michael Curley, Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute
Protecting Drinking Water at the Source: Lessons from United States Watershed Investment Programs
Todd Gartner, Senior Associate and Manager, Natural Infrastructure for Water, World Resources Institute
Watershed investment programs are source water protection efforts that aim to safeguard the quality and reliability of water supply through watershed management and restoration. These programs are sprouting across the United States, offering promising pathways to securing clean drinking water. But what does it take to establish and grow a successful watershed investment program? Program investors and practitioners are looking for guidance and ideas on how to build a program that works for their own context.
WRI’s 2016 report “Protecting Drinking Water at the Source” addresses this need by compiling experiences and lessons from 13 watershed investment programs from across the United States. Based on a 3-year comparative case study analysis, it serves as a roadmap to guide utilities and communities as they work together to protect precious source waters.
Connecting Upstream Landowners with Downstream Beneficiaries: The Portland Water District Example
Paul Hunt, Environmental Manager, Portland Water District
The Portland Water District (PWD) supplies drinking water to 200,000 people in eleven Maine communities. Its source is Sebago Lake - a large, multi-use lake with excellent water quality. The water quality of the lake is largely a result of the predominantly forested, 280,000-acre watershed, as well as the depth and geology of the lake.
Due to the exceptional raw water quality, PWD was granted a waiver to the filtration requirements of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act - in part because there is so little in the water to filter out. So, in essence, the first step in the natural treatment process occurs in the forests upstream of the lake. However, more than 90% of watershed land is privately owned and unprotected.
To help address this challenge, PWD has developed a Watershed Land Conservation Program through which a land trust or other entity can receive a grant of up to 25% of the value of a transaction that conserves watershed forest. The program grew in three steps – starting with small contributions to support ad-hoc requests, to a policy expressing PWD’s intent and goals, to the fully-realized program that exists today.
Even with PWD providing up to 25% of a transaction’s costs, funding the other 75% continues to pose a challenge for land trusts. Regional conservation partners such as the Open Space Institute, The Nature Conservancy, and the Highstead Foundation are collaborating now on an effort to identify and partner with other potential contributors including commercial water users, philanthropic individuals and organizations, large watershed landowners, and other beneficiaries of the ecosystem services that conserved forests deliver.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund
Michael Curley, Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) is the most successful environmental finance program in the world. In 1972, when Congress first passed the Clean Water Act, they included a massive construction grant program, which, over the next 15 years, provided some $70 in grants to sewage treatment plants. In 1987, Congress replaced the grant program with the CWSRF, which is a loan program. Since then, the CWSRF has provided over $120 billion to over 36,000 projects. It can make direct loans at any interest rate including 0% for up to 30 years. It can lend to sewage treatment plants, and make loans for non-point source projects, including stormwater and green infrastructure. The CWSRF can also both guaranty loans and purchase local debt.