Friend of the month – April

Have your say in April… Alexis Morgan from Canada!

Alexis Morgan, Canada

“By considering how we use water to produce goods and services, we can ensure we are generating benefits for people and the planet

By: Juliana Díaz, MBA.

Water and soil are the most important resources for flowers production. In commemoration of the World Water Day in March we spoke with Alexis Morgan, Water Stewardship Specialist at WWF International who shared with us some subjects related to the precious liquid.

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: we know you’re aiming to release a report on standards and water at the ISEAL conference, what important results you can share with us?

Alexis Morgan: we’re very excited to be releasing a new report on May 21st, 2015 that explores the water elements of a variety of agricultural commodity sustainability standards. Without giving away too much, the report highlights the significant opportunities for standards to learn from and complement each other to address shared water challenges.

Water risks should concern consumers, but perhaps even more so, should be of concern to producers. When water risks affect a farmer, the risks can rarely be mitigated by strong on-farm water management practices (such as efficient irrigation). Rather, tackling water risks is about collaboration and working together to ensure that shared challenges are addressed in a manner that benefits people and nature.

The report also highlights the coverage of water stewardship practices in standard systems and proposes customized recommendations for solutions depending on the commodity’s water risk exposure. I will also flag a particular area of weakness across standards.

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: how important are certification schemes and programs to foster the better use of water in production of agricultural products such as flowers?

Alexis: standards and certification systems are very important tools to improve general sustainability practices, water included. With water touching upon not only environmental issues, but also social issues, sustainability standards offer a proven mechanism to improve practices and performance. Our experiences in specific locations, such as Lake Naivasha in Kenya, demonstrate how a group of growers, including those involved in floriculture, can come together to drive new collective water stewardship practices and improve conditions on the ground.

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: in March we celebrated World Water Day, what would you say about the situation related droughts that currently affect some regions in the world such as California?

Alexis: despite the growing recognition of many businesses about the importance of water, we still face a challenge getting the public, governments and some businesses to take substantive action on water. The California situation is interesting on many fronts and speaks to the need to coordinate efforts.

The good news is that the Californian government has taken action, introducing groundwater legislation and providing some US $7.5 billion to implement water projects, some of which can hopefully be applied to manage and restore ecosystem services. Since 1980, California’s overall water use has in fact declined; efforts are being made to be more efficient. Furthermore, California is also fortunate to have significant groundwater reserves, which we can think of as a water “line of credit”. These groundwater reserves will allow many to advert disaster in the short term, but are not a sustainable solution -after all, we can’t live off of our line of credit; we all need to find income or save.

The bad news is that these acute water scarcity challenges come in the face of a situation that is likely to grow much worse. Surface water is critical for energy production and the recent droughts are having an impact on energy and carbon. Surface water is also important for water suppliers in southern California, which will be increasingly affected. The proposed groundwater legislation will take years to come into effect. The reduced snow pack in both the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Rockies means that rivers will have less water throughout the coming year. Lastly, many projections suggest these patterns are likely to continue. Simply put, things may get much worse before they get better unless water users begin working collaboratively to discuss allocations.

We need more efforts, more funds, faster implementation and greater collaboration to ensure efficient and effective water, food and energy security in California, as well as many other regions facing similar water challenges.

Florverde® Sustainable Flowers: what will be your message to all of us to draw our attention to preserve our natural resources like water? 

Alexis: Water is inextricably linkend to food, fiber and energy. When we consume anything, we consume water. Conversely, to conserve food and energy is to conserve water. By considering how we use water to produce goods and services, we can ensure we are generating benefits for people and the planet.

Similarly, we need to continue to think about how we manage our natural capital infraestructure – those ecosystems that provide water services, like wetlands that purify, mountain meadows that slowly release snowpack waters to recharge aquifers, and riparian our catchments holistically and think about the full system, we place ourselves in a much stronger position to have outcomes that benefit everyone in the long term.

What other concerns have you got about our planet? are your clients aware of how they can help the planet? we’d love to read your experiences and share some thoughts with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!