The 21st century presents unprecedented challenges to the long-term viability of large rivers globally. These critical systems provide freshwater for half the world’s people, most agricultural crops, crucial transportation and the dominant low carbon energy source — hydropower. Competing uses for water, however, jeopardize a rich diversity of nature and a wide range of services that the systems provide to society, including secure drinking water for billions of people. 

Established in 2005, The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership (GRP) has contributed to the conservation and sustainable development of rivers globally, establishing innovative on-the-ground conservation projects linked to system outcomes. The GRP works at the scale of the entire Mississippi River and has supported, or is currently supporting, programs on China’s Yangtze, Colombia’s Magdalena, Brazil’s span of the Paraguay-Paraná river system, and the Zambezi throughout Africa. A distinctive component of the program has been facilitation of international learning exchanges to encourage the sharing of solutions across continents. 
 
See this science poster for an overview of the GRP and work in Phase I.
 
To strike a balance for people and nature, the GRP takes an Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) approach.
 
IRBM is the collaborative process of integrating the conservation, management and development of water, land and related resources across sectors within a given river basin. The purpose is to improve economic and social benefits derived from water resources in an equitable manner while preserving and, where necessary, restoring freshwater ecosystems. (Adapted from Integrated Water Resources Management, Global Water Partnership Technical Advisory Committee Background Papers, No. 4, 2000.)
To that end, the GRP’s mission is to bring together diverse partners and best science to expand options for achieving the sustainable management and development of the world’s great rivers and their basins. It seeks shared solutions to common land- and water-use dilemmas, recognizing the inescapable linkages that connect our economy, human well-being and ecosystem sustainability. The GRP views its history and leadership role in the Mississippi River Basin as an important regional asset and a foundation for promoting the global exchange of knowledge and expertise.
 

Image: Barges on Mississippi River © Robert J. Hurt