In Water We Trust

In Water We Trust

Downstream beneficiaries of clean water are anteing up to protect water supplies at their source.

So in 2000, with seed money from TNC and a large donation from Quito’s water company, the FONAG Fund for the Conservation of Water was created. Quito’s electrical company signed up, as did private companies such as a local brewery, Cervercería Nacional, and a water bottling company, Tesalia Springs. Aurelio Ramos, TNC’s director of conservation programs for Latin America, says the FONAG water fund is now up to $12 to $14 million. Even with a moderate interest rate, it is paying out tens of thousands of dollars per year to fund conservation and rehabilitation projects such as fencing off livestock from streams or allowing natural vegetation to grow back, as well as education initiatives to teach locals outside Quito about watersheds and water management.

“That money is also paying for park rangers, the gasoline for their vehicles, and to work with the communities to introduce agroforestry and páramo restoration efforts,” says Ramos.

Finding The Balance

TNC and other organizations such as Nature and Culture International have tried to replicate the success of Quito’s water fund in other Latin American cities with varying degrees of success. One major hurdle is attracting and holding the interest of stakeholders. Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, has a water fund financed by Bavaria brewery and the Colombian national parks agency Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia that stands at around $1 million. But the city’s water utility, arguably the most important stakeholder, has flip-flopped time and again about being a partner.

“Everything was going well until there were problems with a change in Bogotá’s city government,” says Alejandro Calvache, TNC’s water funds coordinator for Colombia. “The fund was working the whole time, but it didn’t have the impact we wanted it to have.” Fund managers have recently begun funding some conservation projects such as reforestation campaigns around Bogota’s reservoirs — which means pulling money out of a fund that’s supposed to be growing as fast as possible.

“Almost every one of the water funds makes investments immediately to show investors results. It’s a strategic move and a lesson we learned from the Quito water fund,” explains Ramos. That fund drew heavy criticism from politicians for choosing to finance the fund for five years before paying anything out for conservation projects. Ramos points to funds like Colombia’s Valle del Cauca and Mexico’s Monterrey as examples where conservation projects were started immediately upon starting the trust fund.

This is one of the delicate maneuvers with starting and managing a water fund — choosing how much funds to invest versus how much to pay out for conservation, rehabilitation and education projects.

“You could capitalize these things a lot faster if you take 100 percent of donations and invest it into the fund,” says Kauffman. “But that’s politically unpopular. Having dirt fly on the ground immediately in the short term is key to the success of these programs.”

With 14 water trust funds in place and plans for another 14, TNC is counting on water funds to provide the financial backbone for protecting watersheds throughout Latin America. Kauffman says that various trust funds have tried various ways to balance investment and spending. The sweet spot seems to be putting 60 percent away and using 40 percent on projects. And, in fact, that’s precisely the balance Bogotá’s fund has struck.

Water For The Future

With 14 water trust funds in place and plans for another 14, TNC is counting on water funds to provide the financial backbone for protecting watersheds throughout Latin America. (It has set up three in Brazil but due to local laws, they do not function as endowed trust funds).

Echavarría notes that a big advantage to such funds is that they are long term. “The law in Ecuador permits ours to operate for 80 years. In Peru it’s 35 years and 25 years in Colombia,” she says. That means water funds are immune from political cycles, says Ramos.

But the challenge of attracting and satisfying stakeholders speaks to what water funds do not do. They do not address political frameworks, nor do they have any regulatory power. And, depending on the buy-in of water utilities, they do not necessarily pass the costs to the consumer. This makes it difficult to conserve the resource, because consumers aren’t made aware of its value.

“Each situation depends on the stakeholders and the needs of the basin.” — Marta EchavarríaOthers criticize water trust funds as a “businessification” of water. “The environment shouldn’t be turned into a business chain,” says Jaime Ignacio Vélez Upegui, a professor in the Water Institute at Medellin’s National University in Colombia. “Water funds are too speculative. Despite investing in water, they do not directly result in water.” Veléz Upegui argues that water trust funds take advantage of the public’s environmental sensibilities to build a system for business. He says this may lead to stakeholders feeling cheated and refusing to participate in future activities to protect the environment.

Echavarría agrees that water trust funds aren’t the only way to mitigate watershed degradation. With the environmental firm EcoDecisión she directs, water funds are just one tool in a set of tactics (such as setting up carbon markets) she uses to protect the environment in Ecuador. “Each situation depends on the stakeholders and the needs of the basin,” she says.

Whatever the approach chosen, Echavarría underscores the importance of doing something to protect water supplies for future generations.

“In the end, protecting water is protecting nature as a whole,” she says. “If we don’t invest in its rehabilitation and conservation, it will stop being the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

This article originally appeared on Ensia

About The Author

bajak aleszuAleszu Bajak is a journalist who covers science, technology and public health. He's no stranger to the lab bench, having worked in gene therapy and marine biology. The founder of LatinAmericanScience.org, his work has appeared in magazines such as Nature, Science and New Scientist.

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

LATEST VIDEOS

The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
The Great Climate Migration Has Begun
by Super User
The climate crisis is forcing thousands around the world to flee as their homes become increasingly uninhabitable.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
Earth Has Stayed Habitable For Billions Of Years – Exactly How Lucky Did We Get?
by Toby Tyrrell
It took evolution 3 or 4 billion years to produce Homo sapiens. If the climate had completely failed just once in that…
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
How Mapping The Weather 12,000 Years Ago Can Help Predict Future Climate Change
by Brice Rea
The end of the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, was characterised by a final cold phase called the Younger Dryas.…
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
The Caspian Sea Is Set To Fall By 9 Metres Or More This Century
by Frank Wesselingh and Matteo Lattuada
Imagine you are on the coast, looking out to sea. In front of you lies 100 metres of barren sand that looks like a…
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
Venus Was Once More Earth-like, But Climate Change Made It Uninhabitable
by Richard Ernst
We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of…
Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
The Five Climate Disbeliefs: A Crash Course In Climate Misinformation
by John Cook
This video is a crash course in climate misinformation, summarizing the key arguments used to cast doubt on the reality…
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
The Arctic Hasn't Been This Warm For 3 Million Years and That Means Big Changes For The Planet
by Julie Brigham-Grette and Steve Petsch
Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year it measures just 1.44…

LATEST ARTICLES

trees to plant for climate2
Plant These Trees To Improve City Life
by Mike Williams-Rice
A new study establishes live oaks and American sycamores as champions among 17 “super trees” that will help make cities…
north sea sea bed
Why We Must Understand Seabed Geology To Harness The Winds
by Natasha Barlow, Associate Professor of Quaternary Environmental Change, University of Leeds
For any country blessed with easy access to the shallow and windy North Sea, offshore wind will be key to meeting net…
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
3 wildfire lessons for forest towns as Dixie Fire destroys historic Greenville, California
by Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of Oregon
A wildfire burning in hot, dry mountain forest swept through the Gold Rush town of Greenville, California, on Aug. 4,…
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
China Can Meet Energy and Climate Goals Capping Coal Power
by Alvin Lin
At the Leader’s Climate Summit in April, Xi Jinping pledged that China will “strictly control coal-fired power…
Blue water surrounded by dead white grass
Map tracks 30 years of extreme snowmelt across US
by Mikayla Mace-Arizona
A new map of extreme snowmelt events over the last 30 years clarifies the processes that drive rapid melting.
A plane drops red fire retardant on to a forest fire as firefighters parked along a road look up into the orange sky
Model predicts 10-year burst of wildfire, then gradual decline
by Hannah Hickey-U. Washington
A look at the long-term future of wildfires predicts an initial roughly decade-long burst of wildfire activity,…
White sea ice in blue water with the sun setting reflected in the water
Earth’s frozen areas are shrinking 33K square miles a year
by Texas A&M University
The Earth’s cryosphere is shrinking by 33,000 square miles (87,000 square kilometers) per year.
A row of male and female speakers at microphones
234 scientists read 14,000+ research papers to write the upcoming IPCC climate report
by Stephanie Spera, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment, University of Richmond
This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are finalizing a report that assesses the state of the global…

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.