Beyond the Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection

Beyond the Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection

Natura Foundation Bolivia contributed to the report Beyond the Source: The environmental, economic and community benefits of source water protection, led by The Nature Conservancy. Beyond the Source seeks to illustrate the value of nature to cities looking to secure water supplies while adding a number of benefits that address global challenges we face. By restoring forests and working with farmers and ranchers to improve their land management practices, we can improve water quality and reduce water treatment costs. The report highligths the importance of healthy source watersheds are vital natural infrastructure for nearly all cities around the world. They collect, store and filter water and provide benefits for biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, food security, and human health and well-being. Protecting and restoring the natural infrastructure of source watersheds can directly enhance water quality and quantity. The value of source water protection goes well beyond water security. The report offers for the first time, an in-depth exploration of the co-benefits—including climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, and human health and well-being—that can result from source water protection investment. Capturing the value of source watersheds through water funds  The water fund, an institutional platform, can help resolve governance issues by bridging science, jurisdictional, financial and implementation gaps. For more than 15 years, water funds have helped communities improve water quality by bringing water users together to collectively invest in upstream habitat protection and land management, and mobilize innovative sources of funding.  As a permanent governance, investment and source water protection implementation mechanism, water funds provide the framework for collective action, connecting land stewards in rural areas and water users...
Ensuring water access in the face of climate change

Ensuring water access in the face of climate change

Actors across a watershed often have very different needs, with upstream landowners trying to exploit natural resources, such as forests and grasslands, without necessarily taking into account how their actions might impact downstream water users. Incentive-based conservation mechanisms, such as Reciprocal Watershed Agreements (RWAs) or Payment for Environmental Services (PES), attempt to align incentives across the watershed by having downstream users compensate upstream landowners for undertaking practices that improve the quality and reliability of the water supply. These include, for example, minimizing cattle grazing or limiting deforestation to certain areas, in order to avoid soil erosion and to contain the negative impacts on aquifer recharge. Our organization, the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, currently supports several watershed management initiatives across Latin America and the Caribbean. These include RWAs, which in Bolivia have been branded as “Watershared” agreements by MIF implementing partner Fundación Natura Bolivia (Natura), as well as both public and private PES agreements (in Panama and Guatemala). The aim of such pilot activities is to better understand how and when each type of agreement can be successful in increasing long-term efficiency in the use of watershed resources. While they share the same objective, Watershared and PES models differ considerably in many ways, for example: Government-led PES agreements, such as the Mexican National Program for Hydrological Environmental Services, operate under the assumption that natural ecosystems provide benefits to all members of society, and therefore schemes to conserve them should be paid through general tax revenue. Private PES agreements focus on quantifying the externalities associated with resource use and conservation, in order to...
Preparing for COP 21 in Paris, Tarija’s Governor Oliva recognizes the “watershared” commitment of the municipality of El Torno

Preparing for COP 21 in Paris, Tarija’s Governor Oliva recognizes the “watershared” commitment of the municipality of El Torno

The Governor of Tarija, Adrian Oliva Alcázar, will participate with Natura in the COP21 in Paris, where he will present Tarija’s conservation and water supply commitments and challenges and highlight the potential of RWA in Tarija. In preparation for his trip to Paris, the Governor traveled to the municipality of El Torno to better understand the implementation of the Reciprocal Water Agreements (RWA) there. Local stakeholders who are implementing RWA in El Torno—including the mayor, Gerardo Paniagua, municipal 1-compromiso-sostenibilidade-1councilors and representatives of 7 water cooperatives—received the governor in the municipality. These water cooperatives are charging an additional monthly fee of USD 0.12 onto each water user’s bill, investing more than $35,000 since 2011 in protecting the upstream forests that are critical for water supply. Also meeting with the Governor were some of the 208 upstream RWA partners from different communities including Villa Paraiso. These upstream landowners are receiving environmentally friendly productive alternatives such as beehives and fruit tree seedlings, in return for conserving 4,816 hectares of their forests through RWA. Joining Governor Oliva in his visit to El Torno were the Executive Director of Natura Foundation, Maria Teresa Vargas and Santa Cruz State Assemblyman, Alcides Vargas, who is supporting Natura’s work in the region. The governor of Tarija explained to Mayor Paniagua “When I see projects and conservation efforts such as the one you are developing, I feel thrilled. One of the first things one realizes about this project is that by protecting the forest you are working for others. The first beneficiaries of protecting the forest are the local people. I am talking from experience because I come...
Representatives of 17 countries learned about Reciprocal Water Agreements to protect and conserve watersheds

Representatives of 17 countries learned about Reciprocal Water Agreements to protect and conserve watersheds

As part of the ¨Seminar on Sustainable Development of Biosphere Reserves of Iberoamerica and the Caribbean, 2-visitantes-17-paises-2environmental professionals from 17 countries travelled to El Torno and one of the community where local people are implementing WaterShared. The visitors—from Cuba, Spain, France, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua , Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay , Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and Bolivia—first visited the Association of Water Cooperatives that comprises of the 7 water cooperatives of the municipality of El Torno. This association has brought together 10,000 water users to contribute water and forest conservation. Seminar participants then visited the El Salao community, where Mayor Gerardo Paniagua, Jose Beltran (President of the Water Cooperatives Association), and the Executive Director of Natura, Maria Teresa Vargas, witnessed 13 new families signing RWA agreements in which they committed to conserve 508 ha of forest that are critical for water provision. In return these community members from El Salao received productive initiatives that will help them diversify their economic production systems and reduce deforestation. The mayor noted “By conserving these forests we are protecting the water supplies not only of El Salao and EL Torno, but also for the city of Santa Cruz. The Autonomous Municipal Government of El Torno has contributed $14,000 to the local fund, while at the same time each individual water user in the water cooperatives contributes $2 every year. This is how we engage these families to continue with the conservation of...
Buenavista families receive productive incentives to conserve forested watersheds

Buenavista families receive productive incentives to conserve forested watersheds

Among violins and tambourines and the aroma of fresh coffee aroma created a festive environment in which families of 5 communities signed Reciprocal Water Agreements to conserve forest and watersheds in Buena Vista. During the Buenavista Coffee Festival, the municipal authorities, representatives of the water cooperative, Natura and the local population gathered in the main plaza of the town to witness 31 families in their commitment to conserve 614 ha of forests critical for water provision. Five communities—San Pedro de Palillos, Recompensa, Bella Unión, Carmen Surutú and San Juan del Saguayo—will conserve their forests for a period of 10 years. These forests are located in the Integrated Management Area of the Amboro National Park. This park is also the main source of water provision to the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. The Mayor of Buena Vista, Bladimir Chávez explained “We signed an agreement with Natura Foundation and the Water Cooperative of Buena Vista, with the idea of preserving our Natura, because we want to conserve our flora and fauna and we want to keep our forests standing. More than 75% of the municipal territory is protected, most of which is within the Amboro National Park. This allows us to have clean water for our population consumption; we are determined to conserve the forests in and around the park that recharge our aquifers”. The Autonomous Municipal Government of Buena Vista and the Water Cooperative COOPAGUAB have implemented reciprocal Water Agreements in Buena Vista since 2012. There are now 3,097 ha of forests conserved through RWA in 9 communities in Buenavista, benefiting 169 families with productive incentives to help them become...
Cochabamba youth debate Climate Change

Cochabamba youth debate Climate Change

In the run-up to the UN Conference of Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, Bolivia has been participating in the international negotiations, developing and promoting an alternative position called (“Vivir bien”—“To live well in harmony and balance with Mother Nature”) Creating a space for analysis and reflection on the challenges of global climate agenda and Bolivia’s climate agenda, 60 college students from different universities and departments, such as Biology, Law, Environmental Engineering and Sociology met in the Casablanca Café in Cochabamba to hold a “Coffee for the Climate” Universities and partner institutions of the region supported the event, which was organized by the Latin American Climate Platform (PCL) and Natura. Participants were promoting a civil society role, particularly from the youth, in discussion of the climate change international negotiations. The event organizers will develop a document about the event’s conclusions to share it with regional and national authorities to help propel the development and implementation of public politics on climate change adaptation and mitigation. “We, the youth, must become leaders in environmental topics, because we are an important sector in the society. We must demand and propose public policies and initiatives in favor of Mother Nature” highlighted one of the...