Water is essential to life, that’s why we’re linking water and forest conservation by protecting watersheds.
What is a Watershed?
A watershed is an area of land where smaller water sources lead to a single larger body of water. Water not only enters this larger entity from streams and rivers, but also includes water that is filtered from the soil that eventually meets this body of water as well. Protecting watersheds is vital to providing people with high quality water.
Conserving watersheds protects the exceptional species diversity in tropical cloud forests and provides clean water and health benefits for the people who live downstream. Preserving watersheds also benefits the climate by keeping carbon in virgin forests and reforesting degraded lands.
In southern Ecuador, our FORAGUA Water Fund was the first of its kind. By integrating municipalities into a single conservation trust to collect water use fees, we developed an innovative financial mechanism for watershed management. The funds generated are being used to empower communities in implementing sustainable agricultural practices, rehabilitating damaged ecosystems, and creating new protected areas.
In 2013, our work in the Azuay province of central Ecuador resulted in the protection of over 100,000 acres of forests as watershed reserves. With the addition of seven new municipalities, FORAGUA now encompasses 18 municipalities and protects more than 250,000 acres of forests that supply water to over one million people.
After witnessing the success of this regional watershed conservation initiative, we began working to replicate this innovative model in central and northern Ecuador, as well as in the Peruvian Amazon basin, where the Quiroz Water Fund is already underway to protect 85,000 acres of watershed ecosystems.