How Ecuador Serves As A Solutions Incubator To Restore The Planet’s Water Health: The Nature Conservancy Model For The World (Forbes)

FORBES | Clean and accessible water is essential to life, and closely linked to economic vitality. As the World Health Organization explains, “Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.” Yet water insecurity affects one in four people globally, with an estimated 2 billion people lacking access to clean and safe drinking water, while about 3.6 billion lack access to sanitation services (an astounding 46% of the world’s population). This has a ripple effect that increases disease burden, reduces food supply, and reinforces cycles of poverty.  

As global water consumption doubles every 20 years, finding clean water solutions that are replicable and scalable to cities and countries globally might seem out of reach. This is where The Nature Conservancy (TNC) comes in. TNC is the largest conservation organization in the world, working in 79 nations and territories, and its size, impact, and science-based approach has cemented its role as a global innovator that can collaboratively help solve the most complex environmental challenges. Its ability to smartly problem-solve at scale, with international reach, is what initially drew me to The Nature Conservancy, where I currently serve as Global Board Chair.

The Pivotal, Global Role of Water Funds

Over 20 years ago, The Nature Conservancy pioneered a watershed investment approach known as “Water Funds,” and it has since become a too-rare example of scalable innovation. My wife Tracy and I were able to witness the impact of the first of the Water Funds last month when we traveled to Ecuador, visiting the Galapagos Islands, the Andean mountains, and the Amazon basin, hosted by the in-country TNC team led by Galo Medina.

It was in the capital city of Quito that we learned the remarkable story of the pioneering role of TNC in Water Funds and their subsequent expansion worldwide. What began as a mere $20,000 contribution towards the establishment of watershed conservation area in 2000 has grown exponentially into a replicable system that today helps provide 2.6 million people access to fresh water. This first-of-its-kind approach has become a model for countries worldwide.

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