Chapter 6 Liquid Assets

Chapter 6 describes how natural systems underpin the water cycles that sustain the human economy. 

Pages 153-159. I open this chapter with a visit to the Sumapaz Paramo and later describe how The Nature Conservancy is working with local partners to maintain the water services provided by this amazing living system. More details can be found here:

Page 160. I mention an image that portrays all the world’s water gathered together in one place. Readers can see a version of that picture here: If you’d like to see an image of the proportion of this that is in the form of freshwater this image is really quite striking:

Page 160. For an overview of water-related statistics, see: Fry, A. (lead author) (2006). Water: facts and trends. World Business Council for Sustainable Development. You can find this document at:

Page 161. There is a lot of technical material published on coccolithophores and the production of dimethyl-sulphide. A good summary on the roles played by these plant plankton can be found at:

Page 162. I write about how the Amazon basin rainforests recycle rainfall, in the process taking water far into the interior of South America. For a non-technical summary on this see: A more technical paper can be found at: Aragão, LEOC. (2012). The rainforest's water pump. Nature 489, 217–218. This can be found at:

Page 162. I mention how pollen grains released by rainforest trees and other plants helps to seed cloud formation. This article provides more information and has further suggested reading as well:,_climate 

Pages 163-164. I talk about Cloud forests and the importance of these in maintaining water supplies. I cite the example of the cloud forests in the Uluguru Mountains, Tanzania. For background on how such water supply values might be maintained, see: Lopa, D. et al. (2012). Towards operational payments for water ecosystem services in Tanzania: a case study from the Uluguru Mountains. Fauna & Flora International, Oryx, 46(1), 34–44. This can be seen at:

Pages 165-166. I write about how attitudes have changed toward forests conservation in Brazil, in part because of a wider appreciation of the value these ecosystems deliver in terms of water services, and how this has helped galvanize action to cut deforestation.  A news story from May 2012 provides some background on how much the deforestation rate has declined:

Page 168. I talk about the example of Lake Naivasha in Kenya and how its water supply is subject to pressure from flower-growing. This  paper sets out a good summary of the issues and possible solutions: Mekonnen, M.  Hoekstra, A and Becht, R. (2012). Mitigating the Water Footprint of Export Cut Flowers from the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya. Water Resource Management 26:3725–3742. You can find this paper at:

Pages 168-169. I write about the concept of embedded water. Waterwise gives a good summary of this idea, and some examples of the embedded water in different products and goods. See here: This poster gives a good graphic illustration of the idea of embedded water:

Page 169. I cite a figure of 4650 litres as the per capita level of water consumption in the UK (including embedded water). This is a little higher than the one presented by waterwise (see above) but is based on a rigorous analysis from researches working with WWF. The basis of their estimate can be seen in: Chapagain, A. and Orr, S. (2008). UK Water Footprint: the impact of the UK’s food and fibre consumption on global water resources. Volume one. WWF-UK. You can find this report at:

Page 170. I describe a journey through South Australia and crossing Goyder’s Line. This website offers some more background on this boundary set out in 1865 to mark the limits of settled agriculture in that part of the world:

Page 171. I write about climate change impacts on coffee and tea growing in East Africa. The Report from the adaptation workshop held in Kericho - on
Climate change adaptation in the Kenyan tea sector provides some maps that illustrate the point I am making very well. This report can be found at:

Page 171. On the area of irrigated cropland in the world and how this has increased over time see Howell, T.A. (2001). Enhancing Water Use Efficiency in Irrigated Agriculture Agronomy Journal 93:281–289. While this review is mainly about the USA, global figures are included. This paper can be accessed at:

Pages 171-172. I mention how in some parts of the world groundwater is being abstracted more quickly than it can replenish, including in some regions of India and China, the world’s two most populous countries. For an overview on groundwater depletion, see: Foster, SSD. and Chilton, PJ. (2003) Groundwater – the processes and global significance of aquifer degradation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 29; 358(1440): 1957–1972. This paper can be accessed on-line at:

Pages 172-173. In this chapter I mention the remarkable wetlands outside the Indian metropolis of Kolkata and how the city’s sewage is ‘treated’ there. I wrote about a visit to this place some years previously. This article is available via The Guardian website:

Pages 173-174. I also mention how the Nakivubo swamp, Kampala, Uganda, helps to deal with sewage waste from the city. The figures I cite were presented in a case study on the value of wetlands produced by IUCN and entitled NAKIVUBO SWAMP, UGANDA:
managing natural wetlands for their ecosystem services. You can find this on-line at:

Pages 174-175. There is a mention of a programme in Tanzania to protect cloud forests that replenish river flow. More details can be found in a case study document produced by IIED can called Tanzania - Equitable Payments for Watershed Services (EPWS) programme. This can be found at:

Page 175. More details on the programme in Mexico whereby landowners are paid to protect areas of forest can be found in: Morrison, A. (2010) Enhancing Carbon offsets for sustainable land use, Scolel Te, Mexico. TEEB. This can be found on-line at:

Pages 177-179. For a few more details and more sources on the story of how New York invested in land management to secure its water supply see P10 of TEEB (2009). – The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for National and International Policy Makers. This can be found on-line at:

Pages 179-181. For further details on the partnership to conserve the paramo habitats that supply Bogota with water, see Water Funds Business Case: Conservation as a Source of Competitive Advantage, produced by a range of organisations, including the Global Environmental Facility. It can be found on-line at: