Working together with The Nature Conservancy, the Pacific Institute and others, WWF helps to promote the use of freshwater in a way that is socially beneficial, environmentally responsible and economically sustainable through the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).
AWS is developing the world’s first global water stewardship program that recognizes and rewards water users and managers who take significant steps to minimize their water use and impacts.
At the heart of the program is the development of an ISEAL-compliant International Water Stewardship Standard based on critical aspects of water stewardship.
The AWS International Water Stewardship Standard has great potential to address WWF’s main water stewardship goals through the implementation of its 4 principles that are currently being developed.
Principle 1, Water Governance: Water Stewards shall strive to achieve equitable and transparent water governance for all water users within the defined area of influence.
The water governance principle addresses how water is governed and managed, both internally within a site, and externally within a watershed, and includes aspects of access, rights, policy and claims. It is heavily linked to the notions of responsibility and accountability.
Water governance is defined as the internal and external mechanisms by which the water-related aspects of an entity are controlled and by which the entity is accountable to its stakeholders, including which decisions are made, how and by whom. It defines the relationships between different stakeholders and between different parts of the system.
Principle 2, Water Balance: Water Stewards shall strive to achieve and maintain a sustainable water balance, and help to ensure adequate availability for all users at all times within the defined area of influence.
The water balance principle addresses the amount and timing of water use, including whether the volumes withdrawn, consumed, and returned at the site and in the basin are sustainable relative to renewable supplies. Water balance is defined as the change in water supply in a watershed determined by the difference between average precipitation, evapotranspiration, and surface water discharge at the main drain of the watershed.
Principle 3, Water Quality: Water Stewards shall contribute to the maintenance of good water quality status in terms of chemical, physical and biological characteristics to maintain ecosystems and ensure adequate water quality for all users within the defined area of influence.
The water quality principle addresses the physical, chemical and biological properties of water, including whether water quality at the site and within the basin are within acceptable local norms. Water quality is defined as a term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose.
Principle 4, Important Water Areas: Water Stewards shall identify Important Water Areas at their sites and within their defined area of influence and shall strive to protect, manage and restore such areas as necessary.
The Important Water Areas principle addresses the spatial aspects of water, at the site and within the basin, and addresses the land forms that are a linked component of water systems, whether for cultural purposes or ecosystem services. Important Water Areas are defined as water-related areas that are deemed particularly important by local stakeholders for the ecosystem services they provide, including cultural, spirit, recreational, economic, or biodiversity values. Examples of Important Water Areas could include riparian areas, vernal pools critical for breeding of important aquatic species, aquifer recharge zones, water-related sites of religious significance, wetlands that provide water purification services, or drinking water reservoirs. In all cases, stakeholder validation is critical to determining whether a given water area is “important” or not.
The Standard will continue to be under development throughout 2012 and 2013 as we work to ensure support from stakeholders in all regions and applicability to a diversity of situations. To participate in the AWS Roundtable efforts or to comment on the Draft International Water Stewardship Standard, please visit the AWS website.