Usage and uses of the WaterWorld and Co$ting Nature Policy Support Tools

This post is reblogged from the policysupport blog
Example Users

WaterWorld and Co$ting Nature are sophisticated spatial policy support systems for mapping water risk, ecosystem service provision and the impacts of scenarios for climate and land use change and/or land and water management interventions.  They have been developed by King’s College London and a range of partners  Their use has grown significantly in the years since they were delivered to a much wider group of users through a simple web-based interface aimed at supporting decision-making and policy formulation.  The tools are  unique in combining “big data” and sophisticated spatial models in a simple and globally applicable web-based policy support system making scientific data and understanding universally accessible and useful to a range of users.

This post characterises the  geography of current users, their areas of interest and the types of use to which these tools are put using statistics for the year to November 213.

The systems have more than 1000 registered users. In the last year the tools have been used by 823 organisations from 114 countries with the most frequent users being Conservation International, UNEP-WCMC, World Bank Group, University of Southampton, Resources for the Future, ZSL, Amazon Conservation, Birdlife International, Cornell, Stanford and  Earthwatch, alongside many smaller overseas NGOs and universities.

Users are distributed geographically as shown in the Figures 2 and 3 below with a particularly strong presence in USA, Europe and the Andean countries but a significant number of users in 114 countries.  The number of organisations using the systems is greatest in Europe, North America and South America with less use per-organisation and fewer organisations based in in Africa and Asia currently using the systems.

Areas of interest
A snapshot of the areas in which the tools had been applied by users is given in Figure 1 for Costing Nature (top row) and WaterWorld (bottom row).  Costing Nature has been applied a number of times to 107 local scale (1-hectare)  tiles (top left) largely in Latin America, West Africa and South Asia and to 119 regional scale (1-square-km) tiles (top right) covering most of the world.   WaterWorld has been applied a number of times in 319 local scale (1-hectare) tiles distributed throughout the world and 374 regional scale tiles (covering the whole terrestrial land area) for version 1 and 77 regional scale tiles (covering most of the tropics) for version 2  (bottom left).

Figure 1 (a) 1-hectare resolution (local) applications of Co$ting Nature, top-left and (b) 1-square-km (regional) applications of Co$ting Nature (top-right), (c) 1-hectare resolution (local) applications of WaterWorld, bottom-left and (d) 1-square-km (regional) applications of WaterWorld (bottom-right).  

Example Uses

Some documented examples (that we know of) of the uses that people (outside our group) put WaterWorld and Costing Nature to include: the use by TNC to help develop the business case for interventions made by water funds, use by the World Bank in climate adaptation plans for the water sector in Nicaragua, use by UNDP in  their review of the Guiana Shield  Geographic Conservation Priority Setting,use by UNEP-WCMC and others in their toolkit for measuring ecosystem services at the site scale, use by Conservation International in their US EPA Sustainable Biofuels Project and in post disaster relocation of the town of Gramalote. There are many more uses by these and other organisation that are not publicly documented.

Figure 2 PSS users for last 12 months by country (excluding UK)

Figure 3 PSS users for last 12 months by city (excluding London)

Water, water everywhere: Forthcoming water events

There are plenty of water events being offered this term.  The department is hosting the London Water Research Group seminar series and there are some water-related talks by the KCL Geography’s Environment, Politics and Development group, to which many of our King’s Water staff belong.  In addition, for those of you based in London, head out to the hip area of Shoreditch for the Passenger Films event on ‘Revisiting CHINATOWN – voices in contested water’ on Friday 22nd November.  Dr. Alex Loftus and his PhD student, Richard Bater are among the discussants.

Here are the details for the water talks at King’s:

  • 18 November 2013 5:30-7:00 pm, Monday at King’s College London – Strand Campus, 4th floor K4U.04 (Pyramid Room)  A Modest Yet Optimistic Conception of International Water Resources Law, Dr Owen McIntyre, Faculty of Law, University College Cork
  •  21 November 2013 5:00 -7:00 pm, Thursday at King’s College London – Strand Campus,4th floor K4U.04 (Pyramid Room), Working for Water in the UN Year of Water Cooperation,With United Nations Association, Chair: Prof Frances Cleaver

Speakers: Prof Tony Allan, KCL ‘Water and Food Security: global challenges and how we can all contribute’; Dr Alex Loftus, KCL‘The Right to Water’; Michael Gilmont, KCL ‘Building policy cooperation between competing water interests through compromise: insights from California, the Murray Darling and Israel’

  •  28th November 12:30 -2:00pm, Thursday at King’s College London – Strand Campus,4th floor K4U.04 (Pyramid Room), Rethinking water governance in Delhi: Learning from people and place,Dr Chandra Kumar, Aberystwyth University; Government of Arunachal Pradesh, India




On air about water: PhD student discusses Central Asian waters on audio magazine

Richard Bater, a third-year PhD candidate at KCL Geography, was recently invited to talk about his researches around water politics on a special edition of ‘Paperweight’ centered on ‘The Ecological’.  ‘Paperweight’ is an audio magazine of visual and material culture broadcast on Resonance FM (funded by Arts Council England), that brings together researchers, artists, architects, and designers to consider different themes from a broadly cultural vantage-point, drawing on their respective work.

During the programme, Richard introduced his research into regimes of water regulation in Central Asia since the mid-19th century.  Allied to this empirical focus, he also introduced his conceptual interest in how water in particular becomes understood, represented, and governed in historically particular ways.  This was briefly explored in two ways.  First, branded bottled water was described as archetypical of commoditised water invested with geographically-specific symbolic and exchange value, and used to designate, perform, and enhance social status.  This is perhaps only the most explicit instance of how water becomes enclosed as an object of exchange, and much more has been, and could, be said about the different ways of managing water – technically, institutionally – that can engineer and embed social cleavages.  Second, Richard talked about the recent moves within critical geopolitics that seeks to question the ‘geo’ as a non-objective, non-apolitical ‘prior’ to the political.  As such, Richard sketched out what a critical geopolitics of water could mean for understanding how matters such as water are both particular forces for (geo-)political contestation, but also re-defined in and through such assemblies.

You can listen to the programme again here.

The following links offer some additional insights around some of these questions:


Water Wars in Mumbai – Graham, S; Desai, R; MacFarlane, C

Dams as Symbols of Modernisation – Kaika, M