Protecting water pays dividends (IRIN)
JOHANNESBURG, 17 January 2013 (IRIN) - As soaring temperatures and rapid urbanization threaten water security, countries are beginning to invest in the protection and preservation of their water sources, a new report reveals.
The efforts - such as planting trees along the shorelines of rivers to prevent soil erosion - are also creating jobs, the report, State of Watershed Payments 2012, says.
Produced by the nonprofit Forest Trends, the report is the second instalment of an inventory of initiatives around the world that are paying individuals and communities to revive or preserve water-friendly features of the landscape, including wetlands, streams and forests that can capture, filter and store freshwater.
Protecting watershed services
Countries are seeking to protect watershed services - the benefits, like clean water, obtained from healthy watershed ecosystems - by incentivizing the maintenance and improvement of watershed areas.
Of the 205 "payments for watershed services" programmes tracked around the world, more than half are in China (61) and the United States (67). Forest Trends discovered watershed investment programmes in 29 countries, but a staggering 91 percent of the payments in 2011 took place in China.
There are, however, massive initiatives underway in Africa. South Africa runs the continent's largest water conservation programme, Working for Water, which since its inception in 1995 has employed at least 20,000 people to uproot water-hogging invasive plants such as water hyacinth and eucalyptus. Studies estimate that the programme has saved South Africa more than US$50 billion in avoided costs from invasive plant impacts.
The government has been paying people employed by the programme out of its poverty relief fund. The programme, through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is now working with private companies in South Africa to offset their water consumption "footprints" and improve their water efficiency by investing in watershed services.
Around the world, there are at least 73 new investments in watershed services (IWS) programmes under development. Countries like Bulgaria, Gabon, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi and Romania are "in line to implement their first IWS mechanism in 2012 and the coming years", the report said.