As a fast growing region, Latin America needs water to secure a solid and sustainable development that provides a better quality of life for its people. Global warming, deforestation, pollution and other environmental and human pressures are major challenges for fresh water. With this common vision, today, at the World Water Forum, the Latin American Water Funds Partnership (LAWFP)—launched in June of 2011 by The Nature Conservancy, FEMSA Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF)—presents a manual featuring a ground-breaking tool aimed at protecting freshwater while fostering the expansion of green development opportunities for millions of people in Latin American cities.
“For more than a decade, The Nature Conservancy has been working with local partners to help protect the sources of our fresh water for nature, our economies and livelihoods,” said Fernando Veiga, Latin American Water Funds Manager for The Nature Conservancy. “Today, through the Partnership’s efforts we are able to share this manual highlighting on-the ground experience with Water Funds, field and regional implementation with local stakeholders, monitoring and reporting, so that anyone interested in this conservation tool can learn more about it and apply it.”
A Water Fund is an innovative way to help pay for nature’s services and reinvest that money in conservation. Healthy watersheds help 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.
The Water Funds Manual which compiles, analyzes and synthesizes years of experience using this tool, provides operational guidelines to people and organizations interested in establishing a water fund or similar mechanism.
LAWFP invests more than USD27 million in creating, implementing and capitalizing at least 47 Water Funds in Latin America in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and other places in Latin America and the Caribbean. These projects will support the conservation of more than 7 million acres of watersheds that, in turn, have the potential to benefit approximately 50 million people.
Water Funds exemplify the “green economy” concept – societies must develop in ways that yield both environmental and equitable economic benefits. This is one of the key components of this manual.
“Water is of great importance for the private sector, as it is for everyone in the world. As part of our commitment towards a shared responsibility for the conservation of this vital resource, we are very proud to build this Partnership,” said Vidal Garza, Director of FEMSA Foundation. Through the launching of this Manual, we show that the Partnership’s contribution not only focuses on Water Funds in our region, but also through sharing experiences to promote similar initiatives and projects all over the world seeking to preserve nature in the long term for people everywhere.”
The Partnership looks forward to the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit, this coming June, as an opportunity to scale up this innovative tool.
“A key ingredient of this partnership is the commitment to bring world-class research and rigorous science to the Water Fund concept,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “We selected a small number of watersheds in which to test and perfect conservation techniques related to water quantity and quality. Such experiences are part of this manual and contribute to a replication strategy that will enable a much larger number of cities and countries to adopt these techniques.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide.