Watershed Connect: The Simple Way to Find Watershed Solutions

Waterbodies like lakes and streams are only as healthy as the watersheds in which they nest, and the consequences of poor watershed management have been devastaing in terms of life and expensive in terms of livelihoods.  A new platform aims to promote water solutions by making it easier to invest in ecological infrastructure. 

Waterbodies like lakes and streams are only as healthy as the watersheds in which they nest, and the consequences of poor watershed management have been devastaing in terms of life and expensive in terms of livelihoods. A new platform aims to promote water solutions by making it easier to invest in ecological infrastructure.

March 13, Marseille — Today at the 6th World Water Forum, the nonprofit organization Forest Trends will launch a collaborative platform to foster innovative approaches to solving the global challenge of ensuring access to clean water supply. Watershed Connect supports projects that recognize the linked economic and ecological benefits of healthy natural water resources.

“One of the major challenges to scaling up investment in water’s natural infrastructure base is not knowing what has worked and what hasn’t,” explains Carlos Muí±oz Pií±a, Director of Resource Economics at Forest Trends. “Watershed Connect is a big step towards improving our ability to share hard-earned knowledge on designing PWS. We must learn from the collective effort from all of those involved or we will be losing valuable time in getting it right.”

40 percent of the world’s population will face water scarcity by 2050 under a ‘business as usual’ scenario, while water pollution from agriculture and inadequate wastewater treatment is expected to worsen significantly in developing countries over the same period, according to new estimates from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

But as more than 300 cities and towns around the world have already discovered, it’s possible to cost-effectively address these problems by restoring and protecting the ‘ecological infrastructure’ that supplies clean water. Healthy watersheds do much the same work as water treatment plants, levies, dikes, and other engineered solutions – without expensive equipment and with added benefits like protection of wildlife habitat and carbon sequestration. Natural ecosystems can filter out water pollution, regulate stream flows, recharge aquifers, and absorb floodwaters.

The Watershed Connect platform advances an approach that recognizes the links between economy and ecology: payments for watershed services (PWS). PWS is an innovative financing model that creates incentives to invest in natural water infrastructure. New York City famously uses a PWS approach to protect its drinking water, which has saved the city a total of more than $8 billion in treatment costs. PWS is quickly gaining team around the world: Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace State of Watershed Payments report found that the value of active programs in 2008 was over US$9 billion.

Accelerating the Pace and Scale of Watershed Investment

Despite the amount of activity in watershed payments and markets, there has been no systematic effort to connect individuals with experience, expertise, and interest in this field across geographies and regions. Watershed Connect aims to fill this gap.

“To solve the global water crisis, we need to identify and disseminate innovative models for financing watershed conservation,” explains Katherine Hamilton, Managing Director of Ecosystem Marketplace. “At the same time, transparency and access to information is critical for these financing tools to succeed.”

Building a Global Community of Practice to Increase the Visibility of PWS

“Conversations about investing in watershed services have tended to be cordoned off by sector or watershed,” says Dr. Jan Cassin, the director of the project behind Watershed Connect. “Watershed Connect will allow us to overcome that obstacle and bring these approaches to the scale we need to meet the global water crisis.”

Watershed Connect will engage and support PWS practitioners, policy-makers, and other stakeholders in developing projects and sharing experiences. Watershed Connect also aims to support decision-makers unfamiliar with PWS in rapidly moving up the learning curve. The platform offers a suite of collaboration and communication tools, a global inventory of innovative watershed payment projects, project development guidance, a library of key resources, and the latest news and analysis on watershed payments.

Leaders in the field are welcoming these efforts. “There’s enormous value in connecting good people doing good work to protect watersheds across the world,” says Bobby Cochran, Executive Director of the Willamette Partnership, in Oregon, USA. “This project will go a long way toward helping a dynamic idea turn into a reality that benefits people and places across the globe.”

Forest_Trends Forest Trends is a Washington D.C.-based international non-profit organization that was created in 1999 by leaders from conservation organizations, forest products firms, research groups, multilateral development banks, private investment funds and philanthropic foundations. Our mission is four-fold: to expand the value of forests to society; to promote sustainable forest management and conservation by creating and capturing market values for ecosystem services; to support innovative projects and companies that are developing these markets; and to enhance the livelihoods of local communities living in and around those forests. We do this by analyzing strategic market and policy issues, catalyzing connections between forward looking producers, communities and investors, and developing new financial tools to help markets work for conservation and people. Our approach integrates the fundamental dimensions of ecology, economy and equity because our goal is to have an impact on a scale that is meaningful globally and for a diverse set of stakeholders. The Scaling Up Payments for Ecosystem Services to Meet the Global Water Crisis project is Forest Trends’ newest initiative in the water arena, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The recently launched project will generate, synthesize, disseminate, and scale up best practices in water markets and payments for watershed services.
ecosystem_marketplace_stacked.png Ecosystem Marketplace, an initiative of Forest Trends, is a leading source of news, data, and analytics on markets and payments for ecosystem services (such as water quality, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity). We believe that by making accessible information on policy, finance, regulation, science, business, and other market-relevant factors, markets for ecosystem services will one day become a fundamental part of our economic system, helping give value to environmental services that, for too long, have been taken for granted. In providing free reliable market information, we hope not only to facilitate transactions (thereby lowering transaction costs), but also to catalyze new thinking, spur the development of new markets and the infrastructure that supports them, and achieve effective and equitable nature conservation.

Anne Thiel
Communications Associate
athiel (at) forest-trends.org
(202) 446-1982

Nathaniel Carroll
Director of Biodiversity, Ecosystem Marketplace
ncarroll (at) ecosystemmarketplace.com
(202) 446-1981

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