Wetlands, an opportunity for companies

European Business & Biodiversity Campaign - News

Wetlands, an opportunity for companies

Living Lakes 2019, the International Conference on Lakes and Wetlands that assesses the state of conservation of water and its ecosystems every two years, took place in Valencia last May.

The meeting concluded its fifteenth edition denouncing the deep deterioration suffered by most of the wetlands of the planet, but also highlighting the effort made by some companies, administrations and NGOs in recent years to restore the water cycles of some of the most unique lakes in the world. "Protecting wetlands is much more profitable than trying to restore them", noted the Executive Director of Living Lakes Canada on the closing day.
During the three days of debates and conferences, representatives of the 42 participating countries had the opportunity to share information and experiences of success in diverse sectors. "Living Lakes is a network that helps us to learn and exchange knowledge and experiences" says Amanda del Río, Technical Director of the Spanish NGO Fundación Global Nature. "In Spain we have implemented solutions applied in other countries, such as green filters".
Here are some examples of good practices presented at the 15th Living Lakes Conference and worth knowing and imitating:
The initiative 'Clean water for the world'

From amongst the projects that aroused most interest during the celebration of Living Lakes 2019, the one about green filters stood out. It is a solution based on nature that allows to take advantage of the purification capacity of certain helophyte plants, such as the enea (Typha sp.), used for filtering the lake waters.
'Clean water for the world' is the name of a Global Nature Fund initiative that has the support of Kärcher, the world's leading provider of cleaning technology, and aims to improve water quality and living conditions in rural areas . To meet this objective, green filter systems have been built to naturally reduce nutrients and contaminants in wetlands in Colombia, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Senegal or Sri Lanka. 15 green filters have already been completed, demonstrating the effectiveness of this economical, durable and low maintenance solution.

This project arises from the Spanish initiatives of the former Ministry of the Environment in L'Albufera de Valencia in 2006, where these large filters were installed for the first time in order to regenerate the waters of the wetland and promote biodiversity within its limits by implementing reserve areas.
Methodology for the assessment of the ecosystem services of a wetland.

When talking about conservation, the economic value of the spaces and species that we want to protect is rarely considered. As it is known, wetlands generate goods and services that are essential for human life and provide a framework for stable development for both companies and society, but benefits offered by these wetlands are rarely measured, and much less monetized (i.e., turn them into money).
This is precisely what Naturgy has done in Bolarque´s hydroelectric power plant located in the province of Guadalajara. This Spanish company from the electricity sector has carried out a study to assess the ecosystem services offered by the reservoir of the hydroelectric plant for water supply, cultural services, recreational use and ecotourism.
The study shows that natural capital is a good tool for valuing the natural environment (its goods and its derived services). The methodology developed, the focus, objective and global results of this research show that it is worth valuing, quantifying and even monetizing natural capital.
This pioneering experience in the company has helped "to understand and value the potential offered by the company / nature interplay, and why it is important to integrate this binomial into our strategies. Its main advantage is that it allows identifying and quantifying the risks and opportunities resulting from the environment knowledge, improving the decision making process" says Nieves Cifuentes, Corporate Head of Environment and Sustainability at Naturgy.
Wastewater treatment in L'Albufera
With more than 282 cubic hectometers of wastewater treated in 2018, Global Omnium has technologies to return purified water of high quality to the natural environment and also offer irrigators an additional flow in areas affected by scarce resources.
Particularly noteworthy is the treatment of the wastewaters carried out in the Pinedo treatment plant located in the Albufera Natural Park, a protected area of great ecological value where exhaustive controls are performed prior to their discharge, reducing the phosphorus and nitrogen present in residual waters.
The Wastewater Division of Global Omnium participates together with prestigious laboratories and university centers in four LIFE programmes.  These projects, with the support of the European Commission, have mobilized an investment of around seven million euros. Among the objectives of these investigations is the development, implementation and demonstration of microbiological tools that enhance bacterial growth in order to reduce the time that the treatment plants remain stationary after a spill (LIFE-BACTIWATER). An innovative treatment system for the elimination of phosphorus in wastewater is also being investigated. This is about a more effective scheme than the current ones and based on natural products that facilitate the agricultural valorization of the generated sludge (LIFE-NEWEST).
Initiative ‘Caring for Water’

In a global world where the relationship between the economy and the environment is increasingly evident, it is not possible to solve the great challenges our planet is facing without the contribution of companies. Aware of this, the food company Nestlé has launched an initiative 'Caring for Water' which intends to reach zero impact in all of its operations by 2030.  
To achieve this, Nestlé intends to certify all its factories in the next five years in accordance with the standard of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), the main label of world quality for a good water administration that guarantees not only an environmentally sustainable use, but also a socially equitable and economically beneficial use.
The strategy pursue to implement green recovery technologies and circular use of water in the factories of the business group to reach "zero consumption". Nestlé has already started the implementation of this plan in the factories located in the regions of highest water stress in California (United States) or Pakistan. The company also is carrying out a program for integrated water management in coffee communities in Colombia or the sustainable sourcing for industry tomatoes in Extremadura (Spain).

Reducing water risks in cities
Climate Change and the degradation of ecosystems has increased the number of floods, cyclones and other hydrological disasters globally. The Japanese processing company SEKISUI has developed the product CROSS WAVE that is able to control overflow in cities and reduce the impacts of such disasters by storing the rainwater in the ground. SEKISUI also presented the trenchless technology Sewer Pipe Renewal (SPR). With SPR it is possible to renew water pipes without digging up the street. Thus, construction works do not interfere with traffic and the surrounding ecosystem. Besides SEKISUI presented its SEKISUI Index, an ongoing Natural Capital calculation for the company including some parts of the supply chain. The valuation has the strategic goal to improve the environmental performance of the company from year to year.

More about the Living Lakes Conference: www.globalnature.org/en/15th-ll-conference
Source: Fundación Global Nature / Global Nature Fund, June 2019