Photo: Protecting Water Sources in Latin America
Global business, financial, development and conservation leaders announced a new partnership that will protect threatened water resources across Latin America and the Caribbean or 50 million people.
During a kick-off ceremony hosted by Mexico’s Ambassador to the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, The Nature Conservancy, FEMSA Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and Global Environment Facility (GEF) announced the $27 million Latin American Water Funds Partnership that will pledge to protect 7 million acres of watersheds in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and other countries.
Grasslands, cloud forests, tropical rainforests and even deserts and dry forests provide the water that supports our lives. Such ecosystems capture, retain, filter and supply vast quantities of freshwater. In addition to providing drinking water for people, these places provide habitat to rich biological diversity across the globe.
But watersheds around the world face serious threats from pollution, development and climate change. As these natural resources are degraded or disappear, millions of people are at risk of disease and starvation due to lack of clean drinking water. Local economies are also threatened as businesses such as sugar cane growers or manufacturers cannot produce their goods without a sufficient supply of clean water.
In Latin America, more than 77 million people lack access to clean water, according to the United Nations.
“Water Funds offer a triple-win for businesses, communities and nature,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “By investing in green infrastructure, such as forests and rivers, companies and water utilities can save money on the construction of gray infrastructure, such as water filtration systems. Communities benefit through the development of sustainable incomes and clean water supplies, and natural systems are protected to provide habitat for wildlife and deliver clean water.”
“A key ingredient of the partnership we are launching today is the commitment to bring world-class research and rigorous science to the Water Fund concept,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “We will be choosing a small number of watersheds in which to test and perfect conservation techniques related to water quantity and quality. And only then will we implement a replication strategy that will enable a much larger number of cities and countries to adopt these techniques.”
A Water Fund is an innovative way to help pay for nature’s services and reinvest that money in conservation. Since a healthy watershed helps minimize water treatment costs, the funds attract voluntary contributions from large water users downstream, like water utilities, hydroelectric companies, or industries. Revenue from these investments is directed to preserve key lands upstream that filter and regulate the water supply, through activities such as reforestation, ecotourism and monitoring water flows. Water Funds also help create incentives for green economic opportunities that have a positive impact on local communities, like sustainable farming.