9:00 am
10:30 am

Water and food security in the face of COVID-19: Finding robust solutions

Marisa Escobar, Lahcen Kenny, Laura Forni, Kim Andersson, Newsha Ajami, Marta Echavarría, Annette Huber-Lee (panel moderator), Brian Joyce (Q&A moderator)
Published By:
Hosted by:
Stockholm Environment Institute
Watch the Webinar
About the webinar
This webinar explored the implications of COVID-19 on global water and food security, and how water planning can best incorporate the critical uncertainties that pandemics bring

For over a decade, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has helped government and non-government organizations plan and manage water in a way that increases resilience and reduces vulnerabilities for both humans and ecosystems. We use a participatory, stakeholder-driven process — called Robust Decision Support (RDS) — to identify critical uncertainties and find robust solutions to water scarcity.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings new challenges and circumstances to water and agricultural planning, which must be incorporated into the RDS process and water models. This webinar focused on three on-going projects in the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, where we have begun discussions with stakeholders on how to add COVID scenarios into their water planning to ensure resilience.

Participants discussed how best to incorporate pandemics into water modelling and planning and addressed key questions for water and agricultural stakeholders, such as:

  • Given the disruption in food imports and exports, how might water allocations shift towards more focus on national and/or local food self-sufficiency?
  • If emphasis is given to food self-sufficiency, with increased allocations for agriculture, what will be the impacts on other sectors? Who potentially wins and loses?
  • Can water for sanitation and hygiene (WASH) get renewed investment in order to provide all people with access to clean water for hand washing, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other waterborne diseases?
  • What is the role and/or potential of more inclusive water interventions to allow the most vulnerable to gain more water-related income potential though local markets?
Focus Region:
Focus Topic:
Climate / Weather / Environment
Nutrition / Food Systems
Agricultural Value Chains / Agri-Businesses
Land / Water / Resource Management
Knowledge Management
About the speakers

Marisa Escobar

Water Program Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) US

Marisa Escobar is the Water Program Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) US, based in the Davis office. Her work focuses on creating linkages between physical processes and socio-ecological systems.

She uses her expertise on water, including water quality, the physics of water, and the movement of water through watersheds, to produce information on the implications of decisions about water on the overall ecosystem. Her geographic focus is California (where she resides) and Latin America (where she is from). Exploring the linkages between water and the socio-ecological system in Latin America has resulted on the investigation of the energy-water-food nexus and of the role of hydropower in sustainable development.

Since joining SEI’s U.S. Centre in California in 2007, Marisa has used SEI’s Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP) as a primary tool for her analyses. In a major project funded by a STAR Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she has linked WEAP to ecosystem assessment tools to study anadromous fish management in California rivers, focusing on analyzing the tradeoffs between power production and other water management objectives.

Marisa also works to advance the use of WEAP in Latin America and to support a rapidly growing WEAP user community in the region. For example, as part of a World Bank-supported investigation of potential climate change impacts on water resources management in Peru, she developed a glacier accumulation and ablation routine and integrated it with WEAP rainfall-runoff modeling algorithms.

Also in Latin America, Marisa is using WEAP as an analytical tool to support negotiations around the definition of water benefit-sharing mechanisms in Andean Rivers, under funding from the global CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.

Marisa has a B.S. in civil engineering from Javeriana University, in Bogotá, Colombia; an M.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Los Andes University, also in Bogotá; an M.Eng. in the same field from the University of California, Berkeley; and a Ph.D. in hydrologic sciences from the University of California, Davis.

Read more

Lahcen Kenny

PhD, Professor, Departement d’Horticulture, Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, Agadir, Morocco

Read more

Laura Forni

Senior Scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) US

Laura Forni has a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California–Davis.

Her work at SEI initially focused on incorporating agricultural land decisions — which were driven by the economic valuation of water — into the Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) software. She has also been involved in the execution of WEAP ensemble runs and the visualization of WEAP output under various projects that used the Robust Decision Support (RDS) methodology in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Argentina and California.

Laura currently creates visualizations of WEAP model output for various projects, in order to enable stakeholder interaction and facilitate a discussion about concerns that vary in each basin.

She is also involved in the Gender and Social Equity Programme, exploring how to mainstream and integrate gender and social equity aspects into model-based projects.

Read more

Kim Andersson

Kim Andersson holds an MSc in Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Infrastructure and has been a researcher at SEI since 2011.

Kim has been connected professionally to the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) since 2005, through the Ecological Sanitation Research Programme, and has during an extensive time being based in Mexico and Colombia. He has wide experience of the different fields of environmental engineering, where one of his specialties is reuse-oriented water and sanitation management.

Kim has been working with both research and practice, in themes such as: environmental impact assessments, water governance, Integrated Water Resource Management, water and sanitation development, capacity building activities in sustainable sanitation, and contaminated soil and water. His professional experience includes working in Europe, Latin America, Asia and more recently in Africa, in urban, rural and ethnic minorities settings.

He started off as an environmental consultant, before entering into the area of research and development. Prior to working at SEI he was working as a researcher at the Cinara Institute at the Valle University in Colombia.

Currently, he leads the SEI Initiative on Sustainable Sanitation. He is also involved in other ongoing projects such as the REVAMP tool and developing the Knowledge Management Platform of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

Read more

Newsha Ajami

Director of Urban Water Policy, Water in the West; Senior Research Associate, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Newsha K. Ajami, Ph.D.is the director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University’s Water in the West and NSF-ReNUWIt initiatives. She is a hydrologist specializing in sustainable water resource management, water policy, the water-energy-food nexus, and advancing uncertainty assessment techniques impacting hydrological predictions. Her research throughout the years has been interdisciplinary and impact driven, focusing on the improvement of the science-policy-stakeholder interface by incorporating social and economic measures and relevant and effective communication.

Dr. Ajami is a gubernatorial appointee to the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. Before joining Stanford, she worked as a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute from 2011 to 2013, and served as a Science and Technology fellow at the California State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee where she worked on various water and energy related legislation. She was also a post doctorate researcher with the Berkeley Water Center, University of California, Berkeley. She has published many highly cited peer-reviewed papers in predominant journals, coauthored two books, and contributed opinion pieces to the New York Times and the Sacramento Bee. She was the recipient of the 2005 National Science Foundation award for AMS Science and Policy Colloquium and ICSC-World Laboratory Hydrologic Science and Water Resources Fellowship from 2000 to 2003. Dr. Ajami received her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Irvine, an M.S. in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Tehran Polytechnic.

Read more

Marta Echavarría

Director of Ecodecision

Marta has worked in the design, negotiation and development of financial and institutional mechanisms for watershed conservation and protection. She has also led the development of environmental management programs with various agroindustrial sectors in Colombia, Guatemala and Ecuador.

Marta is part of the Advisory Committee of the Ecosystem Marketplace since 2008 and the Steering Committee of the Tropical America Katoomba Group since 2006. She was selected Rainer Arnhold Fellow by the Mulago Foundation In 2007 and a Senior Fellow by Ashoka Foundation in 2006. She was a member of the Board of Fundación Natura in Ecuador from 2004-2008.

Marta holds a Master´s in Development Studies and a B.A. in Environment Studies from Brown University.

Read more

Annette Huber-Lee (panel moderator)

Senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) US

Annette Huber-Lee returned to SEI US in May after serving as director of SEI Asia, in Bangkok, from mid-2012 until February 2013. She has more than 20 years of professional experience in international and domestic planning and management of environmental and water resources.

Dr Huber-Lee focuses on the integration of economic, engineering, and ecological approaches to solve environmental and social problems in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, as well as the development of innovative approaches to environmental policy and natural resource conflict management.

She has also served as a research assistant professor and lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University. From 2006 to 2008, she served as science leader and theme leader for the Challenge Program on Water and Food and the International Food Policy Research Institute in, Washington, DC. From 2001 to 2006, she directed the Water Program at SEI US in Boston.

She has a Ph.D. in engineering sciences from Harvard University, an M.S. in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in agricultural engineering from Cornell University.

Read more

Brian Joyce (Q&A moderator)

Senior Scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

Brian’s research focuses on developing decision support tools for water resources systems.

Brian has participated in the development and application of databases and tools used for water resources analysis in a variety of domestic and international settings.

His recent work has included using SEI’s Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) model to assess climate change impacts on agriculture, to design optimal approaches for meeting environmental flow requirements, and to create an analytical platform for use in multi-party discussions over trans-boundary water resources issues.

Prior to joining SEI, Brian worked at the Natural Heritage Institute, where his research focused on defining creative strategies for balancing agricultural, urban and environmental water demands. Brian’s research at NHI included investigating groundwater banking and conjunctive use potential and identifying operational flexibility to enhance river flows for fish and riparian habitat restoration.

His other research includes developing management practices to mitigate water and pesticide runoff from agriculture.

Brian received his Ph.D. in hydrologic sciences from the University of California, Davis in 2005.

Read more
Webinar replay