The lands around our water sources serve as vital water infrastructure for cities around the world. These lands collect, store and filter our water, and when managed well, can provide a number of additional benefits to people and nature. Beyond the Source, a new report from The Nature Conservancy in partnership with the Natural Capital Project, Forest Trends, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Latin American Water Funds Partnership, seeks to illustrate how nature-based solutions can be implemented at a scale that will make a visible difference in our collective pursuit to create a sustainable world and improve the lives of billions of people.
Beyond the Source analyzes source watersheds of more than 4,000 of the largest cities around the world, and finds that four out of five cities can reduce sediment and nutrient pollution by a meaningful amount through forest protection, reforestation and improved agricultural practices. These natural infrastructure solutions also provide a number of co-benefits, including improving the health and livelihoods of people living in cities and rural areas, preserving plant and animal biodiversity, trapping and storing carbon dioxide and building more resilient communities in the face of climate change. The research highlights water funds as a successful mechanism for downstream water users to fund upstream land conservation and restoration, securing improved water quality and supplies in return. An analysis of the cost for implementing source water protection activities shows that one in six cities could recoup the costs through savings in water treatment alone. Other cities can place a value on the co-benefits and “stack” the total value to realize a positive return on investment.
The maps and underlying data used in Beyond the Source represent a rich set of resources that lend themselves to further exploration. The Nature Conservancy has developed an online companion to the report, accessed via www.protectingwater.org, that features an interactive map and enables users to explore the data.
To download the report and executive summary and access videos, infographics, and photo galleries, visit www.nature.org/beyondthesource.