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Building a Water Quality Trading Program: Options and Considerations

A Product of the National Network on Water Quality Trading

This report aims to provide a reference on common elements and decisions inherent in water quality trading (WQT) program design, especially point-nonpoint WQT programs and the range of available options.

It is intended to help establish WQT programs, provide greater transparency about...

Improving Water Quality (1 of 3)

A Review of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI) To Target U.S. Farm Conservation Funds

This paper, first of a 3-part series, provides an assessment of the USDA’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI), a promising new approach to achieving cleaner water in agriculturally dominated...

WRI experts Betsy Otto, Charles Iceland, Tien Shiao, and Paul Reig will attend World Water Week in Stockholm next week. Among other activities, they’ll co-host a session on using satellite data to map global water risks. Here, Andrew Maddocks explores the role that satellite data can play in improving water management. Learn more about WRI’s World Water Week Activities.

To maintain its economic growth and provide for its massive population, China must reconcile two powerful, converging trends: energy demand and resource scarcity. One prime example of this tension is the country’s coal use and water supply.

According to a new WRI analysis, more than half of China’s proposed coal-fired power plants are slated to be built in areas of high or extremely high water stress. If these plants are built, they could further strain...

Measuring, mapping and understanding water risks around the globe.

The Gulf of Mexico has the largest dead zone in the United States and the second-largest in the world. Dead zones form when excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous wash into waterways and spur algal blooms, depleting the water of oxygen and killing fish, shrimp, and other marine life. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone can range between an astounding 3,000 and 8,000 square miles. At its largest, it’s about the size of Massachusetts.

Reducing this growing dead zone problem is a huge scientific, technical, economic, and political challenge. It’s a conundrum that agricultural and environmental experts from across the United States will deliberate this week at the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.

One new approach they’ll discuss is voluntary nutrient trading. According to a new study conducted by WRI staff for the EPA, this strategy could be used in the Mississippi River Basin to cost-effectively reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution and shrink the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

  • LEARN MORE: Download the full study on the economic feasibility of nutrient trading in the Mississippi River Basin.

This piece was co-written with Dr. Larry Brilliant, president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

This piece also appeared in McClatchy News and the Huffington Post.

We know less about one of world's most pressing challenges today than we did 10 years ago. It's no secret that water - or the lack thereof - will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century. And yet, the United Nations World Water Report, in 2009, stated that when it comes to water, "less is known with each passing decade."

The World Economic Forum recently named the water supply crises as one of the top risks facing the planet - edging out issues like terrorism and systemic financial failure. Water risks permeate almost every aspect of global society. We got a taste last year with crops scorched by drought, shipping lanes threatened and energy plants shut down by low water levels, and coastlines devastated by flooding. Exacerbated by climate change and population growth, such crises will become more common and costly. Yet, the world largely lacks the data we need to monitor, understand, and respond to these water challenges. We are flying blind when it comes to global water issues.


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