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East Cauca Valley Water Fund: Preserving water flows for people and nature

The Nature Conservancy

Clean, fresh water is the essence of life – for humans, plants, and animals; and livelihoods – from agricultural to industry. Water Funds are an innovative way to pay for nature’s services – in this case, supplying clean, fresh water – and reinvest that money in conservation projects that protect nature’s ability to provide these services while simultaneously conserving biodiversity and ensuring water quality for urban populations. The Nature Conservancy, ASOCAÑA (Colombia's sugarcane association), CVC (Corporación Autónoma regional del Valle del Cauca, the local environmental authority) and nine grassroots organizations launched the East Cauca Valley Water Fund in June, 2009. Money raised by the fund will finance the conservation and restoration of 600 square miles of moist tropical forests and montane grasslands surrounding ten river basins that provide drinking water to 900,000 people in the cities of Palmira, El Cerrito, Pradera, Florida and Miranda. These western-Colombian cities are located in the buffer zones of Las Hermosas National Park and several regional protected areas. This 5-year project is expected to invest US$16 million in conservation activities within the project area, including watershed protection, environmental education, reforestation, and eco-friendly cattle ranching. ASOCAÑA has already committed $1.6 million for the first three years; CVC has committed one million in just the first year. The Conservancy is contributing $150,000 through a variety of activities.