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Green infrastructure solutions – Nature Conservancy launches Water Funds Guide 2018

Global conservation NGO The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is progressing its work on developing innovative funding mechanisms to incorporate green infrastructure solutions to growing water challenges.

The Conservancy has announced the launch of its Annual Water Funds Field Guidereport for 2018.

Developed by cities and conservation practitioners, the Water Fund is an institutional platform aimed at helping 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.

Water Funds provide the framework for collective action, connecting land stewards in rural areas and water users in urban areas to share in the value of healthy watersheds.

They serve as a mechanism for downstream users, such as businesses, utilities and local governments, to invest collectively in the watersheds from which they source their water by compensating upstream water users to conserve and restore the natural systems that generate value throughout the watershed.

With a portfolio of 35 funds in operation as at the publication of the report and more than 30 in design, TNC and its partners are building an understanding of how to reduce the risks associated with source water protection investments.

Water Funds offer innovative natural solution for water security

The Water Funds Field Guide sets out The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and partners recommended best practice process for scoping, designing, creating, and operating Water Funds as of 2018.

Introducing the Guide, the authors say that the water security benefits and co-benefits of source water protection are not being captured systematically today and that despite overwhelming benefits to cities, most exert little influence over how sources are managed.

The Guide says:

“Traditional urban water management systems that focus on engineered solutions—like aqueducts, pipes, and drains— will likely be insufficient to deal with pressures like global urbanization and climate change on their own. These “business as usual” solutions are expensive, degrade over time, and can have devastating effects on the health of rivers, floodplains, and wetlands.”

The Guide highlights Water Funds as an innovative natural solution for water security and a governance solution to local water challenges.

Free-to-access Guide, online toolkit and online water funds training courses

The step-by-step Field Guide and online toolkit includes detailed information on a number of key issues – right down to practical operational level guidance – which even extends to the practicalities of holding a launch event to set up a Water Fund.

The Toolbox provides a host of invaluable resources, latest case studies, tools, checklists, templates and other support-tools at the Water Funds Toolbox (waterfundstoolbox.org) which serves as an on-line repository of knowledge on Water Funds.  TNC also provides virtual and in person training for free-to-access courses on Water Funds on the training website (nature.org/waterfundstraining)

The Guide is the result of extensive collaboration and input from a wide range of contributors and supporters including Coca Cola, HSBC, PepsiCo, Veolia, IFAD and the World Resources Institute, to mention just a few, who belong to the global Water Funds Network.

Water Funds Network

The Water Funds Network is a global multi-disciplinary network of water funds practitioners who exchange ideas, knowledge, and lessons learned from applying best practices in the field.

Members of the Network hold expertise in a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds, including knowledge in areas such as legal, aquatic science, management, financial planning, fundraising, geographic information systems, monitoring and stakeholder engagement.

The network’s goal is to build a global network of water fund practitioners to collaborate via knowledge exchanges, increased collaboration with other Network members, and the joint identification of solutions to challenges related to the scoping, designing, and operation of Water Funds.

Key partnerships include:

  • Latin American Water Funds Partnership – an agreement between the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), FEMSA Foundation, the Global Environment Facility and (GEF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to contribute to water security in Latin America and the Caribbean through the creation and strengthening of Water Funds
  • Natural Capital Project (NatCap) – a partnership of three world-class academic institutions – Stanford University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Minnesota – implemented via The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund – two of the world’s largest NGOs
  • Aqueduct – a global water risk mapping tool developed by World Resources Institute to help companies, investors, governments, and other users understand where and how water risks and opportunities are emerging worldwide

By 2020 TNS expects to create and strengthen a total of 40 Water Funds covering 4 million hectares of key ecosystems and leveraging $US500 million to invest in green infrastructure.

Shared aims of the wide range of different organizations who participate in the Water Funds Network are :

  • for natural, or ‘green’, infrastructure to be understood and valued and for it to become part of mainstream infrastructure planning and investment;
  • for large corporations to appreciate the role that well-managed natural infrastructure—including rivers and wetlands—can play in long term business resilience and commercial success;
  • for mainstream capital and investment to be mobilized towards natural infrastructure as an effective and cost-efficient way to harness the power of nature to accelerate the move to a water secure world.

Wide range of nature-based solutions can be funded via Water Funds

A wide range of nature-based green infrastructure solutions can be funded via Water Funds which leverage public and private resources and invest the financial yields in conservation projects.The financial and governance instrument can be used to preserve water sources through nature-based solutions including:

  • reforestation of eroded hillsides
  • creation of protected areas in areas of high ecosystem value
  • management of payments for environmental services to local producers
  • training for and improvement of agriculture and livestock practices

To take one example, in 2011 the Inter-American Development Bank, The Nature Conservancy, the FEMSA Foundation and the Global Environment Facility formed a public-private partnership to create and promote water funds.

The resources are being invested in a series of green infrastructure projects that promote watershed conservation and complement investments in gray infrastructure. In some cases, highly eroded hillsides are being reforested; in others, protected areas are being created, sustainable agricultural practices disseminated, and payments for environmental services generated.

By 2020 The Nature Conservancy expects to create and strengthen a total of 40 Water Funds covering 4 million hectares of key ecosystems and leveraging $US 500 million to invest in green infrastructure.

Many of the issues will be covered in the upcoming the Financial Times upcoming FT Water Summit Opening the Floodgates: Unleashing Returns from Water Investments which takes place in London on 17th October 2018.  Giulio Boccaletti, Chief Strategy Officer at The Nature Conservancy is among the keynote speakers.

WaterBriefingGlobal is media partner with the Financial Times FT Water Summit – Click here for further information about the Summit and Click here for details of how to register for the Summit

Click here to access the online Water Funds toolbox

Click here to download The Water Funds Field Guide 201

Click here to access the online Water Funds training courses

Click here to join the Water Funds Network

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