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Economic Opportunities Through Water Conservation

The Nature Conservancy was recently selected as a winner for the Next Century Innovators Awards for its work with Water Funds.

Concern over water scarcity has been a defining feature of the current era. Water scarcity is estimated to impact over 40 percent of the world’s population, yet dealing with the issue has proved difficult. This is in part due to the complex nature of the problem: any solutions must involve both rural and urban communities, and must bring scientific expertise to bear on public, private and citizen practices.

The Nature Conservancy, in conjunction with a variety of stakeholders including the FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Global Environmental Facility, and the local partners, supports Water Funds which engage the private, public and civil society sectors, creating an active network which can bring together the efforts and capacities of all the actors involved to protect vital watersheds. Water Funds work by pooling resources to fund the preservation and restoration of essential lands upstream, thereby ensuring the water supply downstream is protected.

Water Funds represent an alternative way to think about how we can recognize the value of preserving watersheds, at the same time providing an environmental education for people in rural communities which are engaged to protect the source of water; in companies that rely on water for their business; and in the public institutions charged with protecting municipal water supplies and regulating water issues.

“Water scarcity is estimated to impact over 40 percent of the world’s population.”

At the same time, by paying upstream communities to manage watersheds, Water Funds promote sustainable economic opportunities for local communities. These green jobs help establish new types of structures to advance both conservation and economic opportunities for people. To date, 4,930 families have been trained in watershed preservation and are working upstream.  This creates the space for water resource governance where over government organizations, the private sector and NGOs participate. For example, the Quito Water Fund created in 2000 has engaged over 100 organizations at different levels, which contribute with this initiative, and has a projection of 80 years, guaranteeing a sustainable benefit for both people and nature.

“Going forward, we envision a World Water Funds Platform where lessons learned can be shared across the globe.”

Going forward, we envision a World Water Funds Platform where lessons learned can be shared across the globe, and global partners can contribute in many different places with reduced transaction costs.  So far, there are 12 Water Funds already operating and 15 being designed across the region, thanks to an impressive group of local and regional partners who have been working together to make this happen.

Being selected as a Next Century Innovator is especially important because it gives recognition to all the persons and institutions implementing this initiative locally. For the local partners and communities, this award represents a motivation to keep working for the benefit of themselves and others. This award also increases Water Funds’ credibility to reach other targets and partners.

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