The Swedish Water House cluster group The Swedish Environmental Flow Initiative (SEFI) co-convened a Sunday afternoon seminar together with the Global Environmental Flows Network (eFlowNet), USAID Global Water for Sustainability Program (GLOWS), Conservation International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), UNEP-DHI Centre for Water and Environment (UDC) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The title of the seminar was "Environmental Flows for Sustainable Development, Poverty Alleviation and Biodiversity Conservation".
Water managers have a daunting task of maximising economic and social welfare, and doing so without compromising the health of vital ecosystems. Incorporating environmental flow regimes in water management is an efficient way to safe guard vital ecosystems. The aim of the seminar was to highlight how different sectors work to incorporate environmental flows in their water management and what benefits and tradeoffs exists for the goals of maximising economic and social welfare, and how climate change will affect this work in the future.
One of the more important things that were highlighted in the seminar was that the environmental flow concept is evolving from a biodiversity conservation concept to more and more reflect the human aspect. Maintaining health ecosystems is not only a question for conservation of biodiversity, but really a question of maintaining resources that humans are dependant on. None the less, the term in it self may be a hinder for implementation as many view any term containing the word "environmental" to be something that only concerns biodiversity conservation. Another interesting thing that came up was the implication of climate change on implementing environmental flows, and the need to incorporate this in e-flow work. Even though climate change and increased variability and uncertainty will make the work harder, it is important to remember that the implication climate change will have on water availability and flow patterns, it is miniscule to the implication of human water use such as large scale irrigation schemes and hydropower production.
And then, in the evening, finally it was time! After what feels like a long journey, the cluster group on environmental flows launched the report "Securing Water for Ecosystems and Human Wellbeing: The Importance of Environmental Flows". This report is a joint collaboration between the conveners of the afternoon seminar. The launch was accompanied by a press release and a press event where the refreshments were served and a short presentation of the key messages of the report was made.
A pdf of the report can be found at http://www.swedishwaterhouse.se/opencms/en/resources/
by Birgitta Renöfält, Cluster Group Leader of the Swedish Environmental Flows Initiative