Sustainable, fair, efficient and equitable water usage solutions - involving all stakeholders

Sustainable, fair, efficient and equitable use of water requires coordinated action in order to reach long-term gains. Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2012) investigated virtual water export related to export of cut flowers from the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya. To mitigate the footprint of flower production they developed a solution that involves cut-flower traders, retailers and consumers overseas. In their work they shed light on important aspects that relate to the question how to make water use sustainable in practise. They state that pricing water at its full marginal cost is important, but probably difficult to achieve under current and near-future conditions in Kenya.

They then provide an alternative: a 'water sustainability premium'. The proposal involves a water-sustainability agreement between major agents along the cut-flower supply chain and includes a premium to the final product at the retailer end of the supply chain.

Such a ‘water sustainability premium' will raise awareness among flower consumers and - when channelled back to the farmers - facilitate the flower farms to install the necessary equipment and implement the right measures to use water in a sustainable manner. The collected premiums will most likely generate a fund larger than local water pricing, that in turn can be used for financing measures to reduce the water footprint and to improve watershed management. Furthermore, the mechanism of a water-sustainability premium will reduce the risk of Kenya losing its business in the long term.

An added value of the water-sustainability premium includes the aspect of fairness, since currently the overseas consumers of cut flowers get the benefit but do not cover the environmental cost of the flowers. The mechanism can enhance the green image of the commercial farms and increase chances in the market for sustainable products.
Successful implementation of the water-sustainability premium to cut flowers sold by the retailer depends on the commitment of all stakeholders: governments, civil society organizations, private companies and consumers.

What are your ideas regaring sustainable, fair, efficient and equitable water usage solutions? How can environmental, social and economic sustainability become standard? Along the entire supply chain - involving all stakeholders? Please share your thoughts.

Mekonnen, M.M., Hoekstra, A.Y. and Becht, R. (2012) Mitigating the water footprint of export cut flowers from the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya, Water Resources Management, 26: 3725-3742.
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