Mark Tercek is the president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy and author of Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive By Investing in Nature. You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkTercek.
At The Nature Conservancy (TNC) we are always on the lookout for the triple win—projects that protect nature, meet people’s needs, and provide good returns on investment for businesses and governments.
That’s why I was delighted to be in Monterrey, Mexico today to celebrate the launch of the Monterrey Metropolitan Water Fund (FAMM).
Water Funds finance the protection and restoration of the forests and grasslands that filter, clean and maintain water supplies. TNC helped develop one of the first Water Funds in Latin America back in 2000 in Quito, Ecuador. There, utility companies, breweries, soft drink companies, and other downstream users voluntarily provided funding for conservation efforts upstream. A more expensive filtration plant wasn’t needed because we invested in nature to do the job. Healthy drinking water now flows out of Quito water taps.
Water Funds are a great example of a triple win. Companies save money by preempting the need for more costly water treatment activities. Water resources are kept healthy and flowing for local communities. And natural systems are protected to provide good livelihoods for local communities, habitat for wildlife and to deliver clean water.
It’s an elegant solution for meeting society’s water needs now and into the future.
It was especially poignant to launch our latest Water Fund in Monterrey today, as Mexico copes with historic flooding and landslides caused by Tropical Storm Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid hitting the country from both sides. And, it was very encouraging to launch at a time when many wonder whether we have truly succeeded in bringing diverse groups together in order to accomplish conservation goals. Today’s event demonstrates that we can unite unlikely allies and get positive results for nature and people.
Monterrey—one of the most important industrial capitals of Mexico and Latin America—was spared the worst of this week’s storms. But the city has historically suffered from both frequent floods and bouts of extreme drought—with devastating consequences as residents face too little and too much water at different times throughout the year.
The good news: nature can play a huge role in addressing these challenges. Healthy watersheds naturally regulate water flow. They act like giant sponges, releasing water in times of drought, holding and slowing down its flow in times of flood, and filtering out nutrients that are harmful to downstream areas. By supporting reforestation, soil restoration, and other conservation activities in the San Juan River Watershed, FAMM will help prevent floods and protect the water supply for more than 4 million people in Monterrey area. What’s more, these efforts will benefit nature too, protecting important habitat for a rich array of biodiversity.
Monterrey is the latest major metropolitan area to join the Latin American Alliance of Water Funds, which is led by TNC, bottling company FEMSA, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility. Thirty two cities now have or are implementing Water Funds with an aim to protect the natural systems that produce and filter water for 50 million people in Latin America.
In Monterrey, it was very encouraging to see utilities, businesses, academia, organizations like TNC, and the government—represented at the event by Governor of Nuevo Leon Rodrigo Medina and Minister of the Environment Juan Jose Guerra—come together to protect their freshwater resources. Together, we can achieve much more than we would alone. This is exactly the kind of triple win collaboration that I believe leads to major environmental victories.
As the Latin American economy and population both expand—and as climate change intensifies the water challenges that the region is already facing—Water Funds are a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate that smart partnerships can lead to positive breakthroughs, and that conservation is an essential investment in a sustainable future.
[Image: Mark Tercek at the Monterrey Metropolitan Water Fund launch celebration with Monterrey Governor, Rodrigo Medina (left) and FAMM Council Chair Eugenio Clariond (center). Image Source: Nadia Peimbert/TNC]