Importance of Natural Resources

Harnessing nature’s power for water security

Water security is fundamental to
everything we’re trying to achieve. We, the Nature Conservancy, are trying to get the world to invest in nature for nature and people. What we are doing in
the context of water security is to help stakeholders, cities, governments,
communities understand which investments in nature they can make to achieve water
security. TNC is focused on three basic areas where we think we have a
comparative advantage worldwide. First, we focus on water funds; which actually
conveys a very simple idea how do we get cities and downstream users to pay for
the protection of catchments upstream. The most famous example of this actually
predates the Nature Conservancy. If you live in New York and you open your tap
the water that comes out of that tap hasn’t been filtered because New York
has spent the last 30 years investing in catchments upstream. Now here’s the
question: what would happen if each city around the world protected its water
source instead of just trying to filter the water downstream? We believe that if
cities invested in upstream protection they could deliver cheaper, more secure,
cleaner water to their citizens. We’ve got 30 cities around the world in Latin
America, in Africa, in Asia where downstream users are paying for upstream
protection of the water source. But we think the potential is enormous we think
that up to a thousand cities around the world could achieve cheaper, cleaner
water by investing in nature upstream. The second area we work in is water
markets, trying to set rules for people who live in scarce basins to share water
more efficiently and effectively. The problem is often nature’s not at the
table. What we do is we come to those markets and we represent nature at the
table. And so for example the biggest water market in the world is the
Murray-Darling Basin in Australia where we’ve created the fund to invest in
water rights in the Murray-Darling Basin and trade them between commercial uses
for agriculture and nature. This is a pro farming intervention we provide water
when the farmers need it but it’s also pro nature intervention we provide water
when nature needs it and we’re taking advantage of the fact that nature typically needs water when farmers don’t. The third thing we focus
on is the development of infrastructure on rivers and particularly planning
hydropower. We are at a pivotal point in the world we are building as much
hydropower in the next 20 years as we built in the last hundred. We are
virtually doubling the amount of hydropower in the world building dam
after dam in rivers that today are free-flowing. Those dams are going to deliver much needed energy for people but here’s the
question can you deliver that energy without compromising the functionality
of those rivers. If we do it right we may be able to deliver the same amount of
power that countries require from rivers whilst preserving and saving a hundred
thousand kilometers of river. That may sound abstract but it turns out it’s
actually about lives about two hundred million people the poorest of the poor
depend on inland fisheries for survival. If we get this right they may be able to
still access food. If we get this right nature will continue to thrive; we will
have free-flowing rivers for nature for animals for ecosystems and probably most
importantly if we manage to produce the power and save these rivers, we’ll have
growing economies that can entrust to future generations nature they can enjoy.
In 20 years if we’re sitting on the moon again and looking down to the planet I
want to be able to say that you can tell we were here. What that means is that you
can see swaths of forests being protected and that are there for future
generations that you can see rivers flowing and actually reaching the sea. If
we get this rise we can have thriving cities that are growing with large
metropolitan areas but surrounded by healthy catchments. I think if you
succeed we will be able to see that from space and I think that’s the bar that we
need to set for our work.

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