Multiple Benefits of Water Investment Strategies

Thank you for your interest in Pacific Institute’s continuing work on developing a framework to consistently evaluate multiple benefits of water investment strategies. This project is on-going, and this webpage will be updated regularly as more deliverables become available. For more information, please contact Sarah Diringer, Senior Researcher, at sdiringer [at] pacinst.org.

Project Goal

The Pacific Institute – in collaboration with a diverse team of stakeholders – is developing a multi-benefit framework for evaluating the benefits and costs associated with water management strategies to help improve the careful consideration of multiple benefits in decision making.

Project Background

There is broad recognition that adapting to climate change, coupled with the need to address aging infrastructure and population growth, will require public and private investments in man-made water systems and the natural environment. These investments will take many forms, ranging from watershed restoration to efficiency improvements and stormwater capture, and will address a combination of flood management, water quality, and water supply objectives. In addition to meeting water-related objectives, many of these strategies can also provide important co-benefits, such as reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, providing habitat, and enhancing community livability.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, water agencies, and academic institutions have developed a variety of tools to identify the multiple benefits of water projects. These tools are often developed independently and tend to focus on a single strategy (e.g., stormwater management) or specific geographic region. To ease the burden of developing multi-benefit tools and evaluations and to allow for greater consistency and comparability among tools, decision makers and researchers need a framework for comprehensively and systematically evaluating the co-benefits and potential tradeoffs of their water management decisions.

Our Work

To address this need, the Pacific Institute and Professor Bob Wilkinson of UC Santa Barbara launched an initiative in 2017 to develop, build consensus around, and promote the uptake of a consistent framework to embed the co-benefits of water projects into investment decisions. During the past year, the team has been developing a framework for identifying and considering multiple benefits of water investments, including five categories of costs and benefits to consider: Water, Energy, Land and Environment, Risk and Uncertainty, and People and Community. The framework can be used by the public sector, for example, when evaluating which water supply or water quality intervention to pursue. Or, it can be used by the private sector, when assessing which projects to invest in within their value chains or as part of their philanthropic activities.

The first report for this work is expected to be released in January 2019 and will outline our approach for careful consideration of multiple benefits.